Nearly 200 Arrested as ‘Mostly Peaceful’ Protest Marches Past Curfew

(Photos: Erin O’Brien)

Thousands protesting police brutality once again took to the streets after curfew Wednesday night, and were met with widespread police resistance. Approximately 180 arrests were made over the course of the night, the NYPD said. 

Speaking in midtown today, police chief Terence A. Monahan explained the increased crackdown on protesters violating the citywide 8pm curfew. “When we have these big crowds, especially in this area, especially where we’ve had the looting, no more tolerance,” he said. During a press briefing today, Gov. Andrew Cuomo acknowledge that protesters were “mainly peaceful” last night but also said, “Officers have to enforce the law, which is you’re supposed to be off the street.”

An hour before the curfew, demonstrators gathered at Barclays Center in Brooklyn following an afternoon of protests throughout the city, including one calling for justice for Breonna Taylor. At 7:30pm, a crowd spilling into Flatbush and Atlantic Avenues kneeled with fists in the air, calling on officers lining the sides to “Take a knee.”

As the curfew approached, the swelling crowd marched north on Flatbush Avenue, with police vans driving alongside it at a distance. At 8:15pm, demonstrators heading toward the Kings County Supreme Court encountered police vans and officers lining the street at Smith and Schermerhorn. Demonstrators dropped to their knees, hands in the air, and asked officers to do the same. At the courthouse, thousands kneeled with their fists in the air, and held a moment of silence for over two minutes. 

As the march approached Cadman Plaza Park, police barricades at Adams Street could be seen blocking the entrance to the Brooklyn Bridge. The mood was practically joyful– some demonstrators danced while others played drums and blasted music.

At Tillary, the bottom of the park, protesters encountered a line of police in riot gear. Amidst chants of “Hands up, don’t shoot” and “Peaceful protest,” some demonstrators danced, while others tried to talk to the police.

“What are you doing,” one woman asked the officers, “Go home.”

Within minutes, NYPD reinforcements arrived and officers jumped out of vans and wagons to hem in protesters on all sides. 

“They’re gonna arrest us,” a protester yelled.

As riot police continued to stream to the front of the crowd, protesters tightened ranks and linked arms. After a few minutes of standoff, they headed back toward Downtown Brooklyn. As they retreated, however, the line of police trailed the protesters, and began to advance on them. Police carried shields and batons, pushing demonstrators south. Several demonstrators were tackled and arrested.

At the other end of the park, near Borough Hall, more police officers began forming a barricade, hemming in protesters on both sides. Near 9pm, police flooded into the park and began advancing more rapidly into the crowd. Police vehicles with sirens drove towards protesters from the north, causing them to scream, run, and scatter.

“Don’t run,” organizers yelled, “Keep it together.”

After a tense five minutes during which the demonstrators– some kneeling or holding their hands in the air– were surrounded on all sides, officers were seen turning their heads to each other to apparently relay information.

“Something’s about to happen, they’re sending a message,” one demonstrator yelled to the crowd. 

Within seconds, riot police descended on the crowd from the north, while police advanced on protesters from the south. Demonstrators screamed and scattered, running and biking, as police with batons tackled protesters and made arrests. Almost simultaneously, rain started to pour, and demonstrators ran across the square towards Fulton Street, chanting “No justice, no peace” as they were soaked.

Undeterred by the crackdown or the rain, protesters regrouped and headed towards Downtown Brooklyn and Crown Heights. Advancing up Fulton, the protests took on a decidedly more celebratory tone, with garbage trucks honking in support and motorcyclists offering rides to marchers and revving their engines to rile up the crowd.

At Fulton and Grand, police that had been trailing the crowd at a distance rapidly closed in, causing demonstrators to link arms and form a protective wall. As a few demonstrators tried to move a police barrier to protect protesters, officers began running into the crowd and tackling demonstrators. Protesters tripped over bikes and plastic barricades as they tried to make their way up Grand. Turning onto Lefferts, more police streamed into the street, and began running after protesters, batons raised. Several demonstrators were pinned against cars or on the ground, their hands zip-tied behind their backs. 

Protesters fled into Crown Heights, where Police vans were waiting for them at the intersection of Classon and Dean. Dozens of officers began pursuing the crowd– at this point a few hundred strong– down Dean Street. Flanked by police, protesters snaked through the streets, as onlookers cheered, banged pots, and flickered lights from apartment windows. 

At the Brooklyn Museum, cars stopped to let the protesters fill Eastern Parkway, and some honked in support. As the demonstrators turned on Bedford advancing north, police again began closing in, but protesters walked on. Some began to peel off, saying “Good night everybody, stay strong,” and were met with cheers. 

Meanwhile, several other groups of protesters also converged on Bed Stuy and Crown Heights, and police reaction intensified. Near midnight, two NYPD officers were stabbed and another shot further south, in Flatbush, according to reports. The stabbing suspect was shot, and is now in critical condition. Protests continued late into the night throughout Brooklyn and Manhattan. 

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