In a tumultuous time following the murder of George Floyd and the brutal first wave of the pandemic, Andrew Cuomo denounces violence and considers looters as criminals who are exploiting the unrest following the murder of George Floyd.
At day 96 of the historic COVID-19 crisis, the people of New York State and from all over the nation have been in indignant protests and heartache following the murder of George Floyd. George Floyd is an African American man and beloved father to three children who was killed by a white policeman eleven days ago.
He died from cardiac arrest and mechanical asphyxiation when policeman, Derek Chauvin, aggressively crushed his knee over Floyd’s neck on the ground as Floyd yelled that he couldn’t breathe and begged him to stop.
Last night, additional protests swept across New York’s biggest cities following this murder that was fueled by racism, including Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse, Albany, and New York City. These protests come as different regions of New York State enter Phase 2 of reopening and New York City prepares for Phase 1. Many worry that protests would cause additional outbreaks of the coronavirus, as new positive cases reach an all-time low.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said of the homicide, “I share the outrage over not just Mr. Floyd’s murder, but what it represents one in a long string of criminal injustices. It is a metaphor for the systemic racism and injustice that we have seen.”
Peaceful Protestors Are Necessary Agents of Change Against the Status Quo
Cuomo described protestors as necessary agents of change. “And I stand with the protesters in the point that we need meaningful reform. I also believe that change, although often necessary, is very hard to effectuate a society. We all say change, change, change, but the truth is the status quo has tremendous energy. And it’s very hard to change the status quo. It’s very hard to bring about meaningful change. And it only happens when the people get fully mobilized and informed and demand change. And that’s when you see change,” said Cuomo. He called these protests “moments for national change” and likened them to the labor rights reforms after the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire, the modern environmental movement after the Battle for Storm King Mountain, and the rebirth of the economy after the Great Depression.
Cuomo then insisted that these protesters are not criminals and thanks those who protested peacefully.
“I want to thank the protesters who were mainly peaceful, which was smart because then they could make their point. You know, there are a lot of political forces that want to say, well, these protesters are just rabble rousers, just criminals. They’re not,” says Cuomo.
Far from being criminals, Cuomo says that these protesters “are young people. They’re racially diverse and white people. They’re African American people. They’re Latinos. They’re just young people who represent a cross section of America who want change.”
Violence Against Police Officers Is Intolerable and Looting Is Unacceptable
However, Cuomo holds no tolerance for violence against police officers. During these protests, a number of police officers got hurt and there were a multitude of looting and burglary in small stores and businesses that had just opened up. Cuomo reports that one police officer was stabbed in the neck and two police officers had gunshot wounds both to their hands.
Cuomo says, “that is intolerable. The police are doing an impossible job. They’re trying to deal with the protesters. They’re trying to stop looting. And they’re trying to keep themselves safe because the police want to go home to their families. There is no tolerance for violence against the police officers. Period. In any part of this state. Period.”
This statement reminds New Yorkers that policemen are also faced with a herculean job at this time.
The violence committed against George Floyd should not be a reason to stab and shoot these policemen, whose job is to stop the looting. Cuomo insists that looting is criminal activity and that people get hurt because looters are using rocks, breaking windows, and stealing.
Cuomo also firmly differentiates the looters from the protesters and says that looting right now takes advantage of the protests, of the country’s anger, and the indispensable occupation of the police to contain the protests. It is “indefensible” and “inexcusable.”
He says, “these people [looters] should be charged for the crime that they are permitting and bail set. I understand the political environment. I also understand that the law is the law and they should charge crimes appropriately.”
Cuomo Opens Testing Facilities For All New Yorkers Who Are At The Protests
Finally, Cuomo says that social distancing measures have reduced the number of infections for the coronavirus. Many states that reopened early in April and early May, such as California, Florida, Mississippi, Missouri, Alabama, Arkansas, Tennessee, and Utah showed a sharp increase in the number of coronavirus cases. That resulted in deaths.
Therefore, Cuomo insists that protesters at least wear masks and pleads that you tell people that you have been exposed to the coronavirus if you attended the protests. He talks about countries, like South Korea, who are undergoing a second wave of infections even though they instilled social distancing measures early and contained their first wave very effectively. A second wave is inevitable and many worry that it may be fueled by the protests.
Cuomo says, “You have 30,000 people who’ve been protesting… Many of them wear masks, thank God. But there’s no social distancing. You look at the encounters with the police. The police are right in their face. They’re right in the face of the police. 20,000 protesters in New York City, thousand protesters in Long Island. These are big numbers.”
Hence, Cuomo is opening testing facilities for all people who are at the protests and asserts that it is the protester’s “civic duty” to get tested for the coronavirus if they attended the protests.
He stresses, “The reason the peaceful protest is so important, not just so you don’t get categorized, stereotyped as criminals, but so the police can actually focus on their job which is stopping the looting. Wear a mask and tell people that you may have been exposed to COVID.”
“If you were at one of those protests, I would have an abundance of caution and assume that you are infected,” advises New York Governor Cuomo.