Mayor Bill de Blasio on Friday welcomed peaceful mass protests in the Big Apple over the police-involved death of George Floyd — even as he has staunchly barred other demonstrations, religious gatherings and fined small businesses $1,000 for reopening.
“I want to just say anyone who wants to protest, we’re going to protect your right to protest, but please also respect [that] the cop in front of you did not create the problem,” de Blasio said on WNYC radio’s “The Brian Lehrer Show.”
He was referring to the hundreds of activists who gathered in Lower Manhattan Thursday — in violation of the city’s pandemic lockdown rules — in the latest national demonstration sparked in the days since a handcuffed Floyd, who was black, died after a white police officer held him to the ground with a knee to his neck in Minneapolis.
While many protesters in the city wore protective face masks, they largely flouted social-distancing rules.
Over 70 demonstrators were arrested including for criminal possession of a weapon and assaulting officers.
De Blasio urged the NYPD to go easy on the activists.
De Blasio said nothing about the demonstrators violating city and state rules against large gatherings, even though he insisted earlier this month that rallies “spread the disease and help kill people.”
In early May, nine protesters pushing for the Empire State to reopen from its coronavirus lockdown were busted outside City Hall for not obeying social distancing guidelines.
At the time, Blasio said gatherings, including the small reopen protest, are prohibited.
“We’re not allowing any kind of gathering, period,” the mayor said at a press briefing.
“I don’t care if it’s 20 people or a hundred people or a thousand people, it’s not going to be allowed. So the point is, if you gather, NYPD is coming there to give you a summons and if you resist, to arrest you, period, across all communities.
“So no, of course this organization is not allowed to hold a rally that goes against every rule we’ve got. They can express themselves online. There’s all sorts of other ways, but if they attempt to hold a rally, they will be summonsed immediately, and that’s true for people of any viewpoint. We’re not doing rallies at this point. They spread the disease and help to kill people. It’s unacceptable,” he said.
Tom Zmich, a Republican running for Congress in New York’s 6th Congressional District who participated in the reopen protest outside City Hall, called de Blasio a hypocrite on Friday.
“The mayor only respects protests he agrees with politically. He doesn’t seem to understand that the First Amendment applies to everyone, not just his pet causes,” Zmich said.
And on Tuesday, de Blasio said President Trump’s announcement that all houses of worship should be allowed to restart in-person services immediately was “dangerous.”
“It is not time to restart large gatherings of any kind even though we deeply, deeply value faith,” de Blasio said.
Just minutes before the WNYC radio appearance, de Blasio warned small businesses not to reopen ahead of schedule.
“There are a few bad apples that are trying to jump the gun even though it’s not legal,” de Blasio said Friday during his daily City Hall coronavirus briefing.
“If you try to resist or come back, you’re going to be hit with fines,” he warned. He has already slapped several mom-and-pop shops with $1,000 penalties, including businesses in Borough Park, Brooklyn.
The city’s manufacturing, construction, wholesale and curbside retail industries can reopen sometime before June 15, but the mayor has not provided a timeline for other businesses such as bars and restaurants.
City Councilman Joe Borelli (R-Staten Island) said de Blasio’s position on the Floyd protests is just another example of his mixed messaging around the city’s continued coronavirus lockdown.
“The mayor and governor have completely lost control of every quarter of this city, they are giving up. We have no idea what’s allowed, what’s open, where people can be in public, or what PPE they must wear.
“I have been fighting for small business for weeks, but if it takes a social justice protest to expose the emperor’s lack of clothes, so be it. They are just winging it like the rest of us. There is no ‘plan,’” Borelli said.
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