With New Yorkers taking to the streets despite the ongoing coronavirus pandemic to protest the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis and clashing with the NYPD in the process, candidates for Queens Borough President have been forced to confront one of the country’s hot button issues in the final weeks leading up to the primary election: police brutality.
“Walking to the store shouldn’t get you shot. Demonstrating your First Amendment rights shouldn’t get you beaten. We all have to do better, and I know as New Yorkers we will, by working together,” wrote City Council Member Costa Constantinides (D-Astoria, East Elmhurst, Jackson Heights, Woodside) in a press release. “This didn’t start with the murder of George Floyd, nor Eric Garner, nor Trayvon Martin. For generations, white people have more often than not walked free for alleged offenses that are a death sentence for black men and women.”
The protests in Queens, which took place in Jackson Heights, Jamaica and Flushing Meadow Park over the weekend, did not devolve into the type of civil unrest seen in Manhattan and Brooklyn over the weekend. Queens was spared the violent spectacle in the neighboring boroughs, where police cars were burnt, tear gas filled the air and protesters and police officers battled in the streets.
According to the NYPD, as of Sunday afternoon there had been 345 arrests, 33 police officers injured, and 47 police vehicles vandalized citywide. The majority of the arrests took place in Manhattan and Brooklyn.
In a tweet on Sunday morning, Commissioner Dermot Shea called the protests, and all of 2020 in general, unprecedented and lauded the way his department has handled the protesters despite criticisms that they escalated the violence.
“I want you to know that I’m extremely proud of the way you’ve comported yourselves in the face of such persistent danger…” he wrote.
Elizabeth Crowley said that peaceful protest is important to spark conversation and change but that there needed to be a de-escalation of the current situation for that to be possible.
“We must find a way to de-escalate in order to peacefully communicate with each other. We need a commitment to community conversations and policing where everyone can feel safe in their homes and lives,” she said.
Dao Yin, also emphasized the need to make sure that the protests remain peaceful but his focus was on preventing the destruction and looting of businesses.
“We must not allow what happened in Minnesota to happen to our great city. Our small business employ people who really need jobs, including undocumented immigrants,” he said.
City Council Member Donovan Richards (D-Arverne, Brookville, Edgemere, Far Rockaway, Laurelton, Rosedale, Springfield Gardens) condemned the NYPD’s response to the protests citywide.
“The NYPD’s response to protestors gathering in mourning of the Black lives lost to police brutality was insensitive and unacceptable,” said Council Member Donovan Richards, Chair of NYC Council Committee on Public Safety. “I am calling for the immediate firing of officers who abused their authority through excessive force against unarmed New Yorkers.”
Candidate Anthony Miranda did not respond to requests for comment.