At a time when police departments across the country are refraining from making low-level arrests to avoid catching the coronavirus, the New York City Police Department has been stepping it up a notch, sending more than a thousand cops to the streets last weekend to enforce social distancing guidelines.
But the enforcement appears to be most aggressive in black neighborhoods which the NYPD has long considered Constitution-free zones.
However, even the less violent enforcement in other neighborhoods has sparked the ire of citizens, including those who were protesting Sunday against a religious group that opposes gay rights being allowed to treat coronavirus patients as well as the Hasidic Jewish community who were ordered to disperse during a funeral of a well-respected rabbi last month.
New York City Mayor Bill DeBlasio stepped it up yet another notch Wednesday by prohibiting protests all-around, whether social distancing is practiced or not.
According to Fox News:
“You’re talking about some of the values we hold in the highest regard in this country and certainly in this city, the right for people to gather, the right to free speech and the right to protest,” (New York City Police Commissioner Dermot) Shea said during a Monday press briefing. “But now comes the bad news, we’re in a pandemic and executive orders have been issued, these are laws that have been passed down through executive order to keep people alive, while we greatly, greatly respect the right of people to protest, there should not be protests taking place in the middle of a pandemic by gathering outside and putting people at risk.”
The announcement came a day after the Reclaim Pride LGBT advocacy group protested Mount Sinai hospital’s relationship with the Samaritan Purse Christian organization, which set up a field hospital in Central Park for COVID-19 patients in an effort to reduce Mount Sinai’s load.
The group objected to the hospital working with the religious organization, claiming that its leadership has espoused bigoted views.
“People who want to make their voices heard, there are plenty of ways to do it without gathering in person,” de Blasio said.
The mayor said if people who have messages they want to spread care about protecting other people, “use all the other tools you have to get your point across but avoid anything that might put other people in harm’s way.”
Nevertheless, members of the city’s African-American community plan to stage a protest today at 3 p.m. to demonstrate against several recent incidents showing NYPD cops abusing black people for not practicing social distancing. The protesters will practice social distancing by remaining in their cars, said Reverend Kevin McCall, founder of the Crisis Action Center in Brooklyn, which serves as a food bank and community center.
“The police is out of control,” McCall said in a telephone interview with Photography is Not a Crime Thursday. “(Social distancing enforcement) is the new stop and frisk.”
They will meet at Gateway Center in Brooklyn, then drive to several precincts that have been involved in police abuse incidents against young, black men, including the one that took place last weekend involving Donni Wright, who was beaten for witnessing cops beat another man as separate incident involving a man named Stephon Scott who was beaten for not wearing a mask. That video is below.
NYPD cops in other neighborhoods, meanwhile, were handing out face masks to sunbathers in parks, highlighting a long-established disparity between the way the laws are enforced in the Big Apple.
Many of the arresting cops have not been wearing masks themselves, noted McCall. And many have been minorities themselves.
“It doesn’t matter about race when it comes to police,” McCall said. “It’s the culture of the blue, they are operating as a gang, they are operating as thugs.”