New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said on Thursday that he did not believe New York City police were using excessive force against peaceful protesters and called on local prosecutors to keep looters in jail.
The governor’s comments during his daily briefing came hours after an NYPD officer was stabbed in the neck and two others were shot. The officers are expected to recover, and the FBI has announced it’s investigating the case.
“That is intolerable,” Cuomo said. “The police are doing an impossible job. They’re trying to deal with the protesters. They’re trying to stop looting. And they’re trying to keep themselves safe because the police want to go home to their families.”
Officers have to enforce the law, which includes the curfew, he said when asked about protesters being injured in Brooklyn on Wednesday night.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio offered a similar defense of the city’s police offers during his own news conference earlier Thursday.
“Here’s a police force that is trying to move forward and improve and be responsive to community concerns,” the mayor said. “Here is a police force that has a majority of people of color. Here is a police force that is doing things overwhelmingly that reflect the restraint we want to see from our police, has made a lot of progress in 6½ years [and] has a lot more to do. Anyone who attacks a police officer attacks all of us, period.”
As the demonstrations against police violence in the wake of George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis last week have waged in New York and nationwide, Cuomo has been clear in saying there’s a difference between protesters seeking changes in the system and looters seeking to exploit the situation.
He said those committing violent acts, such as breaking into stores or throwing objects at law enforcement, need to be held on bail.
“You look at these videos, it would be nonsensical if the police were arresting looters and they were then being arrested and returned to the street the next day to loot again,” Cuomo said.
Those comments came hours after New York County District Attorney Cy Vance told CBS2 the governor should use emergency powers and allow judges to hold accused looters on bail.
However, secretary to the governor Melissa DeRosa told reporters Thursday that prosecutors have the ability to charge looters with second-degree burglary.
“They’re not using the tools that are available to them,” she said. “This is the opinion of our counsel’s office, as well as the legislative council’s offices, which wrote the law.”
The governor also announced an emergency proclamation Thursday to help businesses affected by looting get paid promptly by insurance companies.
With the demonstrations nearly a weeklong now in New York, and thousands of residents on the streets nightly, Cuomo is fearful they may trigger a second wave of COVID-19, where 20,000 have demonstrated.
“If you had a viral spread through these protests, we’re not going to see it in the numbers for a while,” said Cuomo, who also announced that those who have attended protests are eligible to be tested for the coronavirus.
Testing has shown the virus’ spread has decreased significantly in recent weeks. In New York City, the current rate is 2 percent of those tested, compared to 26 percent six weeks ago. Similar numbers are being reported elsewhere in the state, which reported just 52 deaths to the disease Wednesday.