After a weekend of protests over the killing of George Floyd that led to hundreds of arrests and several injuries in Brooklyn neighborhoods, Brooklyn officials reacted.
On Friday, May 29, State Senator Zellnor Myrie, who represents several neighborhoods, including Sunset Park, was at the protest outside Barclays Center when photos showed him being pepper-sprayed.
“I was pepper-sprayed and handcuffed last night along with Assemblywoman Diana C. Richardson,” he said via Facebook. ‘We came in solidarity and to keep the peace. We are still processing what happened.”
State Senator Andrew Gounardes responded to the news.
“That is inexcusable and I stand with them fully in demanding accountability from the NYPD,” he said.
Gounardes also said that violence committed by protesters isn’t a solution.
“Chanting ‘kill the police,’ torching police vans, and throwing cement blocks at police is not nonviolent protest and it will not undo the systems of structural racism that foster these crises,” he said. “This kind of rhetoric and action can lead, directly and indirectly, into violence and even the killing of police officers.”
According to police, 27-year-old Samantha Shader was arrested for allegedly throwing a Molotov cocktail at an NYPD vehicle near the Brooklyn Museum while cops were inside.
Gounardes also mentioned the fatal shooting of police officers Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu 2014.
“We cannot forget the 2014 slaughter of two officers in a van, nor the assassination attempts against police officers just this year,” he said, adding that he has a personal connection to the NYPD. “One of my best friends is a police officer, as is my cousin, and as was my godfather. Any one of them could’ve been in that police van. How would their deaths make the situation any better? From everything I saw reported and shared on social media, there were police officers and protesters who share in the blame for the situation’s escalation.”
However, the state senator also acknowledged the anger of protesters in Brooklyn and around the country.
“There is real pain and real injustice in our country because innocent and unarmed people of color, mostly black people, are being killed by police, by vigilantes, by neighbors – a system of oppression that has existed for hundreds of years to devalue their lives,” he said. “And by an unseen virus that disproportionately afflicts the most oppressed and vulnerable among us.”
Councilmember Justin Brannan discussed the protests and riots on Saturday, May 30 in a statement on Facebook.
“Last night in Brooklyn was a catastrophe,” he said of Friday, May 29. “When all was said and done, in the middle of a pandemic, we saw local elected officials sprayed with mace, protesters indiscriminately thrown to the ground and beaten with batons, rocks and bottles thrown at cops, and NYPD vans torched in the middle of the street. None of this is acceptable. None of it.
Last night didn’t solve anything for anyone. People are still in pain, and still on edge. And rightfully so.”
Near Barclays Center, footage went viral on Twitter of a woman being shoved to the ground by an officer.
Brannan added that he spoke to residents of Fort Greene, where protests also occurred, and cops in south Brooklyn and they share the same sentiment.
“The majority of people were there last night to make their voices heard in a peaceful protest but some came to riot and incite violence, and unfortunately those people took over,” he said. “You don’t bring guns and Molotov cocktails if you’re looking to protest peacefully. Period. At the same time, people across the city are rightfully angry with the actions of some NYPD officers last night. Cops shouldn’t be forcefully throwing young women to the ground and pepper-spraying local elected officials who were only there to help keep the peace. Much of what I saw didn’t look like de-escalation, which should always be the goal when cops are dispatched to a protest. But it’s also hard for anyone to de-escalate anything once people start throwing bricks.”
“The entire country is mourning George Floyd. We can — and we must — ensure his death is not in vain,” added U.S. Rep. Max Rose. “To those who are trying to violently hijack the visceral pain black Americans are trying to express peacefully, let’s be clear: violence against anyone, anywhere, is unacceptable. Destroying property is unacceptable. Setting fire to cop cars or innocent small businesses isn’t brave, it’s selfish. You’re not a freedom fighter, you’re setting fire to a movement for justice.
“If we refuse to see the humanity in each other, we will not be able to heal the open wound George Floyd’s death exposed once again for all of America to see. As a country, we saw that video — law enforcement included — and said this can’t happen. The Floyd family deserves justice and change. It is up to us to make it happen.”
Assemblymember Nicole Malliotakis described the actions from some protesters as “inexcusable.”
“Three months of sickness, isolation, suffering and death have now been capped by the brutal death of George Floyd and the mayhem, violence and destruction that have followed,” she wrote. “What happened to George Floyd is inexcusable and the fact that many Americans want to vent their sadness and anger is understandable, but the violence, looting and arson must stop. The looting and burning of neighborhood businesses and torching of affordable housing proves nothing; it merely creates more pain and suffering. These acts are overshadowing what should be our focus: the senseless death of George Floyd. The rioting and violence in Brooklyn last night was uncalled for and should not be tolerated.”
Councilmember Mark Treyger criticized Mayor Bill de Blasio’s actions and response to the protests.
“The mayor needs to understand that he doesn’t get to moralize the terms of civil disobedience. The peace was not breached by windows shattering in Brooklyn,” he tweeted. “The peace was breached by the latest murder of a black man, by those who swore an oath to protect him. The mayor needs to step up and take charge of his police department and demand de-escalation and empathy. Worrying more about window damage than the repeated loss and harm of life is a big part of the problem.”