NEW YORK (AP) — The latest night of protests in New York City sparked by the death of George Floyd at the hands of police was markedly calmer, while video of a police officer appearing to shove an elderly protester who falls and cracks his head in Buffalo drew widespread condemnation.
Video from WFBO showed a Buffalo police officer appearing to push the 75-year-old man who walked up to police clearing Niagara Square around the 8 p.m. curfew Thursday. The man falls straight backward and hits his head on the pavement, with blood leaking out as officers walk past.
The video quickly went viral on social media, spurring outrage. Buffalo police initially said in a statement that a person “was injured when he tripped & fell,” WIVB-TV reported, but Capt. Jeff Rinaldo later told the TV station that an internal affairs investigation was opened. The police commissioner subsequently suspended two police officers without pay, Mayor Byron Brown said in a statement.
The mayor of the western New York city, who expressed he was “deeply disturbed” by the video, said the unidentified man was in “stable but serious” condition at a hospital.
“While it is early, thankfully he is expected to recover,” Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz tweeted shortly after midnight.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo endorsed the officers’ suspensions, tweeting that what was seen on video was “wholly unjustified and utterly disgraceful.” The office of State Attorney General Letitia James tweeted that they were aware of the video. U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer called for an investigation, according to a statement reported by WIVB-TV.
“The casual cruelty demonstrated by Buffalo police officers tonight is gut-wrenching and unacceptable,” John Curr, the Buffalo chapter director for the New York Civil Liberties Union, said in a statement, adding that it should be a “wake-up call” for city leaders to address police violence.
Calls and emails to Buffalo police from The Associated Press seeking comment Thursday night hadn’t been returned by Friday morning.
Meanwhile in New York City, protesters again stayed on the streets past 8 p.m., in defiance of the citywide curfew that’s set to remain in effect through at least Sunday. Nationwide, the tenor of the protests set off by the death of Floyd, a black man who died Memorial Day after a white Minneapolis police officer pressed his knee into Floyd’s neck, moved from explosive anger to a quiet yet forceful call for more to be done to address racial injustice.
The switch was largely mirrored in New York, which saw fewer violent clashes than in days past. But several videos posted to Twitter on Thursday night showed police aggressively confronting peaceful protesters — often resulting in arrest — in the Bronx and elsewhere. In other places, police watched but didn’t immediately move in, or made orderly arrests without the batons and riot gear of previous nights.
Miguel Fernandes said there were “a lot more nights to go” of marching.
“We’re still waiting for a conviction. We still haven’t gotten it,” Fernandes said. “All they’re doing is putting in charges. The system is not doing anything to make these guys pay for what they did.”
Earlier Thursday, a memorial service featuring Floyd’s brother Terrence Floyd was held at Brooklyn’s Cadman Plaza, where the night before police had used batons and pepper spray on protesters who remained after curfew, videos show.
Mayor Bill de Blasio and Cuomo, both Democrats, said they hadn’t seen the widely shared videos, but Cuomo later tweeted that he was asking James to investigate as part of her ongoing look into police tactics during the protests.
NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea has defended his officers and the department’s overall use of force.
De Blasio was booed and heckled at Floyd’s memorial, where even some speakers took shots at the mayor, criticizing his management of the NYPD and response to the coronavirus pandemic. The mayor had previously praised the police for using “a lot of restraint” overall, but added that “if there’s anything that needs to reviewed, it will be.”
Shortly after midnight, the mayor tweeted that he had spoken to Shea after seeing a video of a delivery worker arrested. Food delivery is essential work, de Blasio said, adding in a second tweet that journalists covering protests, too, were essential workers.
De Blasio had previous condemned police for roughing up journalists, including two from the AP who were shoved, cursed at and told to go home by officers Tuesday night.
“Will get NYPD to fix this immediately,” he tweeted Thursday.
Both Cuomo and de Blasio have said protesters should abide by the curfew to deter the violence, vandalism and destruction that followed protests Sunday and Monday nights. But as darkness fell Thursday, cries of “George Floyd” and “No justice, no peace” continued to ring out from crowds, even as they shrank.
“It’s energetic,” Kenyata Taylor said. “It’s great to be alive, it’s history right now.”