Night falls and curfew comes, with protesters still out.
As 8 p.m. came and went in New York City on Saturday and a curfew began, thousands of protesters against racism and police brutality remained on the streets, preparing for the possibility of run-ins with the police, who have at times dealt harshly with protesters, especially after curfew.
Helicopters hovered over bridges between Manhattan and Brooklyn as darkness fell and the police geared to deal with any protesters who might try to take the roadways of the bridges.
On a mostly sunny Saturday, the overwhelmingly peaceful protesters had thronged bridges, blocked streets and shouted slogans all afternoon, as motorists honked in support and the police watched. At least two dozen events crisscrossed the city, from the Bronx and Queens to Manhattan and Staten Island.
The protesters — whose goals include changing a New York State law that keeps police discipline records secret and reducing funding for the New York Police Department, as well as a general demand for an end to systemic racism — showed no sign of flagging energy. It was their 10th day of demonstrations set off by the killing of a black man, George Floyd, in police custody in Minneapolis.
“Enough is enough,” said Ji’Mie Lane, who marched in a protest along Central Park in Manhattan with her 6-year-old son. “We want as fair rights as everyone. I’m a mom, and the way George Floyd cried, it just broke my heart.”
The nightly curfew, from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m., was imposed by Mayor Bill de Blasio early in the week after a spree of looting and other violence.
Each night, the police have tended to let protests continue past curfew as long as they are peaceful, but only up to a point: Eventually, most nights, there have been sporadic clashes between police and protesters after dark, ending in hundreds of arrests. More than 2,000 people have been arrested over the course of the protests in the city.
As the curfew approached on Fulton Street in Brooklyn, hundreds of demonstrators streamed past the boarded-up shops, bouncing to the beats of a trio of percussionists: three musicians with cowbells taped to the handlebars of their bikes, a drummer keeping the bass.
The mayor also continued to defend the curfew against calls that it be abandoned. He said it would be enforced through Monday morning, when the city is scheduled to begin reopening after a lengthy shutdown prompted by the coronavirus pandemic.
Two men were arrested for bringing gasoline and knives to a Brooklyn rally, the police said.
On Saturday, the police commissioner, Dermot F. Shea, took to Twitter to announce the arrest of two men in Brooklyn who had attended a rally and were carrying gasoline, knives and a machete in their car.
Mr. Shea shared a news article that showed a photo of the ominous items displayed on a table. The police said that on Thursday a tip from a protester led them to a black Chrysler with Ohio plates.
When police stopped the car, one of the men told an officer, “there is a knife in the car,” the police said. The police recovered a tank of gasoline, knives, a machete and two-way radios, Mr. Shea said on Twitter Saturday. The men are facing weapons possession charges, the police said.
“All thanks to the community & cops working together,” Mr. Shea said on Twitter.
The police said also on Saturday they had also arrested a man in connection with an act of vandalism at St. Patrick’s Cathedral. The police said someone scrawled George Floyd’s name and “BLM,” for Black Lives Matter, on the exterior walls of cathedral May 30, just as protests were underway.
‘I don’t know when this ends’: Protesters show resolve, and get help.
For 10 days and nights, New Yorkers have marched, knelt and spoken out in rain and withering humidity to protest the killing of Mr. Floyd, systemic racism and inequality writ large.
And on Saturday afternoon, during the city’s second weekend of demonstrations, organizers urged people to continue the fight, both on the streets in the days to come and at the ballot box in the weeks and months ahead.
“Make sure that this does not stop here,” Timothy Hunter, 21, an organizer with the activist group Strategy for Black Lives, implored demonstrators in Downtown Brooklyn.
“The Democratic primary is June 23,” he added.
“Vote them out! Vote them out!” the crowd chanted in response.
Despite days of sometimes tense and often exhausting demonstrations, many protesters vowed Saturday to press on. Some cited instances of aggressive police behavior toward protesters as well as the curfew itself as motivation to keep marching.
“I don’t know when this ends. I imagine it could last for weeks,” Shola Jones, 38, of Brooklyn said. “What happened in the Bronx, what’s happened in Brooklyn, that to me says we need to continue to be out here.”
As in previous days, demonstrators urged each other to social distance, stay in the portions of the streets that had been designated for them, and avoid confrontations with police officers monitoring their movements.
Medical workers in blue scrubs and white coats gathered again in Manhattan to demonstrate peacefully and call attention to inequalities in the nation’s health care system that negatively impact black Americans.
And all around the city, there were signs that New Yorkers who were not marching were finding their own new and innovative ways to help sustain the protests.
At a private school near Washington Square Park, a large cardboard sign read: “Refuge for Protesters.” And inside the building the air conditioning was on and hand sanitizer, apples, water and various snacks were available.
A line had also formed to use a pair of bathrooms.
“We’re going to stay and do this as long as we’re needed today,” said Frank Portella, a teacher at the school. “I think that’s a way we can be a good ally today.”
At Grand Army Plaza in Prospect Heights, several hundred people had assembled by 3 p.m.
Several makeshift stations had been assembled on folding tables in front of the arch and inside the plaza; one station, organized by the Black Chef Movement, bore signs advocating prison and police reform and offered free vegan wraps.
“Our goals is to literally keep this protest going as long as possible,” said one of the chefs, Rasheeda McCallum, 29. “If we can feed protesters, we can give them an actual incentive to come out.”
The protests have put a law that protects the police under heavy scrutiny.
At some point, history may show us that after years of aggression, after so much brutality that suggested so little fear of repercussion, it took the looting of Chanel and the reversion of SoHo to a wasteland to disable a law that has made real police accountability so difficult in New York City. It required a political class moved by fear — of disorder and desecration — rather than compelled by the logic of justice, which had been apparent for so long.
The law, known by its identification in the state’s civil code — 50-a — has protected habitually delinquent police officers for decades. However unlikely it would have been just a few weeks ago, 50-a now faces the overdue prospect of erasure.
For several years, there has been no work more vital to ending police brutality than abolishing laws and policies that weaken transparency and soften repercussion.
Chief among them are the statutes, like 50-a, that enshrine police misconduct in secrecy, shielding the personnel and disciplinary records of police officers from public view so that there is often no way for a victim to know if an abusive officer has a history of dubious behavior unless someone has happened to sue him.
Many officers dispatched to the protests this week have concealed their badge numbers with strips of elastic or electrical tape. The department said that these were mourning bands, worn to honor colleagues who have died from Covid-19, but a civil liberties group demanded they be removed so that bad actors could be easily identified.
In some sense, the law makes any attempt at obscuring unnecessary. Protesters who had their masks pulled off by officers or were shoved to the ground would not be able to find out whether they had ever done anything similar in the past anyway.
She protested the Vietnam War as a teenager. Now she wants to be part of a new generation’s fight.
Beth Leonard, 67, stood alone on the Grand Army Plaza traffic circle holding a sign that said, “Black Lives Matter.” The first time she protested was when she was a teenager, and it was against the Vietnam War, she said.
But in recent days she said she has felt an imperative to represent her generation in a new generation’s fight.
Saturday was her third time on the streets since Mr. Floyd’s death.
“It’s nice for people to see an older person here,” said Ms. Leonard, a dancer and choreographer who lives in Gowanus. “Young people are always the most important. I’m telling them I’m going to back them up. I will be there for them.”
She began to weep as she discussed the similarities and the differences between the era in which she grew up and the one she now finds herself in.
“I wasn’t politically sophisticated when I was 17,” Ms. Leonard said. “Now, I feel much more able to counterargue. I don’t know if I could convince anybody, but I think I could respectfully oppose somebody.”
“This must happen,” she added, blinking through her tears. “We can’t wait any longer.”
Three district attorneys will not prosecute protesters accused of low-level offenses.
District attorneys in Manhattan, Brooklyn and the Bronx will not prosecute people arrested and accused of low-level offenses, including unlawful assembly or violating the curfew, in the protests.
Since last week, more than 2,000 people have been arrested in the city on charges like disorderly conduct, resisting arrest, unlawful assembly, assault on a police officer and burglary, according to the police and prosecutors.
On Friday, the Manhattan district attorney, Cyrus R. Vance Jr., said in a statement: “Our office has a moral imperative to enact public policies which assure all New Yorkers that in our justice system and our society, black lives matter and police violence is a crime.”
Brooklyn’s district attorney, Eric Gonzalez, said this week, “We will respond to the arrests here, but we will make sure the prosecution of the individual makes sense and does not trample on the right to assemble.”
A spokeswoman for the mayor’s office did not respond to a request for comment on Friday.
Devora Kaye, a spokeswoman for the Police Department said in a statement, “It is our understanding that each arrest will continue to be looked at on a case-by-case basis.”‘Jail support’ stations sprout up to help those arrested.
Since protests began in New York City, more than 2,000 people have been arrested after clashing with the police during largely peaceful demonstrations or while looting. The majority have been detained for more than 24 hours, defense lawyers said.
On Thursday morning, volunteers gathered around a similar “jail support” station near Brooklyn’s central booking. A nurse in scrubs sat near a long table along with several others in masks.
They had arranged gauze and bandages, ibuprofen and antibiotic ointment on one end of the table, along with pots of salve and calming bath salts that had been donated.
At another table, volunteers waited to offer stacks of clementines and large serving dishes of food. One volunteer said most people were released between 11 p.m. and 4 a.m.
Reporting was contributed by Terence McGinley, Andy Newman, Derek M. Norman, Sean Piccoli, Edgar Sandoval, Matt Stevens, Matthew Sedacca and Nate Schweber.