Activists protest skewed social distancing enforcement outside police headquarters

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Protesters met at Foley Square, then marched to Police Headquarters to protest the NYPD’s violent social distancing enforcement in black and brown communities.
Photo by Jon Farina

More than 50 activists marched from Foley Square to One Police Plaza in Manhattan on Monday to protest the NYPD’s violent social distancing enforcement in black and brown communities.

The protest, led by Public Advocate and former Brooklyn Councilman Jumaane Williams, came days after the Police Department released data which found that people of color are receiving the most summonses for COVID-19-related offenses.

According to the data, between March 16 and May 5, police summonsed more people in Brooklyn than anywhere else in the city, with black residents making up two-thirds of police stops in the borough. Of 374 summonses issued citywide, at least 321 were to people of color.

Protesters outside One Police Plaza.Photo by Jon Farina

Monday’s demonstration also came on the heels of a string of violent social distancing-related arrests in eastern Brooklyn.

While he said he is outraged by police behavior, Williams stressed he does not blame the Police Department as a whole, but rather the social distancing policies created.

“The leaders, Mayor [Bill] de Blasio and Governor [Andrew] Cuomo said 10 weeks ago that New Yorkers should stay at home,” Williams told the crowd. “A couple weeks after that, they told New Yorkers to go to work, [and] that they are ‘expendable.’ You know, 75 percent of essential workers are black and brown, but this virus does not discriminate. Every social and economic status is suffering. Laws don’t discriminate, people’s policies do.”

Public Advocate Jumaane Williams at the protest.Photo by Jon Farina

Many activists also blamed de Blasio and Cuomo for pushing the department to enforce “unreasonable social distancing on minority communities.”

No other elected officials joined in the demonstration, which the NYPD allowed to finish. The department has broken up several other rallies across the city in recent weeks, including one protest held by Reclaim Pride and two others at City Hall Park held by those opposed to the economic shutdown.

De Blasio, again, bore the brunt of criticism as police cracked down on some, but allowed others. However, Hizzoner maintains that “nobody should be holding rallies during the COVID-19 crisis,” and that demonstrators can get their message out in other ways.

Protesters Monday were careful to adhere to the city’s social distancing guidelines, staying six feet apart from each other and wearing masks to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Additional reporting by Kevin Duggan

This story first appeared on AMNY.com.