Governor Andrew Cuomo (D-N.Y.) dramatically walked back his previous defense of the New York Police Department during a press conference Friday, admitting that video evidence documenting the excessive use of force to contain protests is verifiable and “undeniable.”
Cuomo’s Friday admission was a significant reversal from his remarks just a day earlier. When asked by reporters on Thursday about instances of police abuse — documented en masse in online videos that show police officers shoving and bludgeoning protesters, journalists, and passersby with batons — Cuomo instead accused the media of launching a partisan attack. He then admonished New Yorkers for showing “disrespect” for police.
“Police bludgeon peaceful protesters with batons for no reason? That’s not a fact,” Cuomo said Thursday. “They don’t do that. Anyone who did do that would be obviously reprehensible if not criminal.”
The governor pulled up a different set of facts during his Friday press conference when he flashed a video clip of a 75-year-old man in Buffalo, New York being pushed to the ground by police.
“These are undeniable situations,” Cuomo said, adding that he had spoken to the mayor of Buffalo and they agreed the officers involved should be immediately suspended.
Cuomo’s reversal on Friday comes after he swatted away questions earlier this week about graphic video footage collected from multiple sources that showed officers throwing demonstrators to the ground, beating passersby on bicycles and demonstrating an overwhelming show of force to constrain and dominate protesters.
New York Times reporter Ali Watkins captured the aftermath of what she described as undue force used by officers who charged at protesters.
More later, but this is a moment after cops, unprompted as far as I can tell, charged protestors, including a sheltered group of nurses and medics trying to tend to bleeding, injured people who got struck by batons. They had just called an ambulance. pic.twitter.com/fQRBnWBPGT
— Ali Watkins (@AliWatkins) June 4, 2020
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, whose daughter was arrested while protesting Monday, has also praised the police for showing “tremendous restraint” toward protesters — a comment that sparked criticism from New Yorkers.
As marches against police brutality and the killing of George Floyd continued throughout the week, city officials, residents and de Blasio supporters called out the mayor and Police Commissioner Dermot F. Shea for painting such a watered down picture of police violence against protesters. Others decried the mayor’s lack of leadership and failure to support New Yorkers from needless attacks as they march for racial justice.
The city’s comptroller Scott Stringer said claiming ignorance about video evidence of police violence was “a total disgrace.”
The penalty for protesting after curfew is not to be beaten senseless by the police.
— Scott M. Stringer (@NYCComptroller) June 4, 2020
Jumaane Williams, the city’s public advocate tweeted on Wednesday that he was “ashamed” of the mayor. Williams has posted videos on Twitter throughout the week — criticizing police for kettling protesters into narrow confines in a way that seemed to escalate conflict.
I can't believe what I just witnessed & experienced. The force used on nonviolent protestors was disgusting. No looting/no fires.Chants of "peaceful protest"@NYPDnews was simply enforcing
an ill advised curfew
What happened was completely avoidable
I'm so ashamed of @NYCMayor
— Jumaane Williams (@JumaaneWilliams) June 4, 2020
Responding to harsh widespread criticism of the NYPD’s handling of the protests and violence toward journalists in particular on Friday, the mayor said “I don’t know why” we’ve seen reporters being arrested, adding that it was not acceptable and further investigation would be pursued.