Extraordinary scenes of peaceful protesters being tear-gassed outside the White House on Monday only drew more demonstrators out on Tuesday, with tens of thousands of people ignoring curfews in Washington, New York, and 26 other cities to protest police brutality and the death of George Floyd for the eighth night in a row.
At least 60,000 turned out in Floyd’s hometown of Houston for a peaceful memorial, while protesters in D.C. gathered at a newly installed fence guarding the White House chanting “Peaceful protest!” and “Fuck your curfew!” as 7 p.m. neared. In Detroit, small scuffles between protesters and police ensnared at least one reporter, who was detained on the ground in zip ties until someone shouted “She’s media!” Tear gas was deployed in Brockton, Massachusetts, after protesters hurled objects including fireworks and glass bottles.
Perhaps the most remarkable turnaround was in New York City where, after a horrific Monday night in which as many as 2,000 looters ran riot through Manhattan robbing stores and lighting fires, the NYPD finally seemed to get an upper hand.
Police cars lined the streets of SoHo—where dozens of luxury stores were destroyed and looted on Sunday and Monday nights—and arrested a handful of people, including two who attempted to enter a Louis Vuitton store. Some sporadic incidents of looting around lower Manhattan appeared to be stamped out.
One NYPD officer, when asked by The Daily Beast how the night was going, said: “Well, for one, we all are out tonight. I think tonight will be more calm.”
New York brought its curfew forward to 8 p.m. from 11 p.m. after Monday’s anarchic scenes, in which hundreds of stores were trashed and police were severely outnumbered. NYPD Chief Terence Monahan said 700 people were arrested on charges of looting on Monday night, however Gov. Andrew Cuomo declared the next morning that the NYPD had failed New York. He later apologized privately.
“They had a lot of people out here. We had a lot, they had more,” Monahan told CNN on Tuesday night. “It was cat and mouse all day. The problem [is] they’re back out here again tonight.”
Before nightfall, at least two massive groups of protesters marched through New York, one of which staged a sit-in outside Gracie Mansion, the official residence of Mayor Bill de Blasio. By 8, officers were out in force and police SUVs blared warnings for people to go home.
Ride-share companies were banned from operating, and share bikes were locked once the curfew hit. Confusion reigned as hundreds of protesters from Brooklyn walked across the Manhattan Bridge at about 9:30 p.m., only to be met by a line of heavily armed riot police blocking their entry into lower Manhattan. One person yelled “It’s a trap!” while others chanted, “No justice, no peace!” After an hours-long standoff, protesters turned around.
“We were having such a good protest. Everything was going smooth and even after the curfew deadline passed, we still continued with minimal pushback from the cops,” 26-year-old server Jazmine told The Daily Beast. “When we went on the Manhattan Bridge—which for me was my way home—all of a sudden we were met by a line of like 50 officers. They didn’t let us pass.”
Ali Martin, a 24-year-old Bronx resident, claimed to be among a handful of people who negotiated with officers to allow protesters stuck on the bridge to be able to turn around and exit in Brooklyn.
“We don’t have to fight to make justice,” he told The Daily Beast. “We have to negotiate with the cops, peacefully, in order for them to make sure we unite as one and make sure everything goes as planned.”
Across the river in Brooklyn, where a Black Lives Matter flag was hoisted up a pole out in front of the Barclays Center a few hours earlier, a protest organizer who declined to give his name urged people to go home before curfew.
“The police don’t care about people’s safety. You can see what’s happening everywhere. You can be peaceful, they’ll hit you with a baton,” he said. “So if curfew hits, go home… Let’s not even try to test the boundaries, because they’ll get someone hurt. We came out here tonight and showed our love. The next step is voting.”
In Washington, several protesters said the Monday gas attack on peaceful protesters inspired more people to come to the White House on Tuesday.
“It was aggressive, but look what we got now,” said Washington resident Drex Jones, gesturing at the crowd. “It’s all love. D.C. united right now.”
D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson, who came with two other council members to watch the protests, agreed that it had driven more people to come out. “I think it’s provocative,” he said.
Tensions increased after 10 p.m. when some protesters in Lafayette Park began shaking the newly installed fence back and forth. Other protesters yelled at them to stop as National Guard soldiers and police moved closer to the front of the fence.