On Thursday, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, an erstwhile progressive, denied having seen viral footage of protesters “being hit with batons” on Wednesday night. “I have not seen the videos that you referred to or seen those accounts, but if there is anything that needs to be reviewed, it will be,” he told a reporter. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo later called a reporter’s question about police having hit peaceful protesters with batons a “hyperpartisan attack.” Said Cuomo: “They don’t do that.”
The most prominent video that Cuomo and de Blasio purportedly haven’t seen is this one, taken on the east side of midtown Manhattan:
It’s possible that the individual on the bike had struck an officer before the part of the incident caught on film. But other accounts of interactions on Wednesday night suggest that he may have been targeted simply for being on a bicycle after the city’s newly declared 8 p.m. curfew. Tablet magazine journalist Armin Rosen, for example, wrote that he was leaving a protest in downtown Brooklyn with his bike when he was hit in the shoulder and buttock by a baton and tackled by multiple officers who then took the bicycle from him (and called him a “pussy”). The Streetsblog site reports that a number of other bicycles were taken from protesters by officers who did not provide their owners with justifications for the seizures or even citations for curfew violations; another video from Manhattan shows a bicycle being grabbed from a woman. When she asks how she’s supposed to get home after curfew, an officer tells her to “figure it out.”
New York City public advocate Jumaane Williams—basically the city’s official watchdog—was also in downtown Brooklyn on Wednesday night and recorded police shoving protesters with batons; you can see it at the end of this clip:
For what it’s worth, city authorities had previously said that individuals who broke curfew would be subject to verbal warnings and summonses, not baton strikes and property seizure.
There’s not a baton in this video taken by a Newsweek staffer last weekend in Brooklyn, but Cuomo might want to watch it nonetheless in light of his incredulity that any officer would strike a protester out of spite rather than legal exigency:
And here’s one from Sunday of an NYPD officer pulling down a young black protester’s coronavirus mask to pepper-spray him:
At 4:30 p.m. Thursday, Cuomo changed his tune, announcing that “no peaceful protestor deserves to be hit with a baton” and attesting that he has asked the state’s attorney general to investigate “last night’s incidents” of apparent abuse. De Blasio, earlier in the afternoon, was booed and heckled offstage at a rally.
Perhaps tonight they will ask someone on their staff to keep Twitter open.