NEW YORK — Mayor Bill de Blasio is defending guidelines for cracking down on protests against coronavirus restrictions, claiming they cannot be compared to Black Lives Matter demonstrations in the summer.
“This is the first time we’ve had to deal with the danger of a full-blown resurgence. And the fact that it is in some very specific areas — and areas that are addressable. We can contain this problem. It really calls for a different set of measures than we’ve ever used previously,” de Blasio told Inside City Hall anchor Errol Louis on Monday night.
In his weekly “Mondays with the Mayor” interview on NY1, de Blasio doubled down on guidelines the NYPD released Thursday night. According to those guidelines, demonstrations and other “first amendment activities” are subject to gathering restrictions in the coronavirus hot zones, empowering the police to break up protests in areas with a high number of COVID-19 cases.
IMPORTANT in new @NYPDnews guidelines -- protests, demonstrations and other "first amendment activities" are subject to gathering restrictions in the COVID zones. This will empower NYPD to break up protests in areas with a high number of COVID cases, i.e. Borough Park pic.twitter.com/zsGTEu3JXe— Courtney Gross (@courtneycgross) October 9, 2020
According to the city, if there are demonstrations in hot spots, people will be asked to disperse, will potentially be issued summonses, and would be detained for disorderly conduct in they refuse to comply.
Last week, the streets of Borough Park saw protests against the lockdowns, as demonstrators — some of whom did not wear face coverings — charged the city was infringing on their First Amendment rights and discriminating against them for gathering to celebrate Jewish holidays. Many protesters also dismissed the rising number of COVID-19 cases as false.
The city’s approach now in the fall contrasts with its approach to racial injustice protests in the summer after the police killing of George Floyd in Minnesota. Those protests, which featured at times thousands of people marching through city streets, were allowed to go on despite happening during a pandemic — although some demonstrators said the NYPD assaulted and arrested them without cause.
The mayor maintained Monday that those protests happened during a different pandemic reality. During the summer, the numbers of positive COVID-19 tests in the city were dipping and were under 3 percent. In these clusters over the past several weeks, positive rates have been on the rise — to the point that they are now over 3 percent, and were over 5 percent in some neighborhoods at one point last week.
De Blasio deemed this a “pivotal week” for the hot spots in Brooklyn and Queens. The positivity rates in cluster zones are a bit of a mixed bag at the moment. In the Brooklyn red zones, for the week of October 4 to October 10, the positive rate was 5.86 percent, down from 6.69 percent for the week of September 27 to October 3. Sunday, that number was 4.54 percent.
But in the Queens red zones, the positive rates are actually up a bit overall. For the week of October 4 to October 10, the positive rate was 3.36 percent, up from 2.97 percent for the week of September 27 to October 3. The rate was 1.63 percent Sunday, though.
If the Brooklyn and Queens neighborhoods’ rates dive down, restrictions could be lifted.
“We now have the right restrictions in place, and a lot of enforcement going on, and a lot of effort at the community level to get people to buy into these restrictions … I am encouraged. We’ve seen some leveling off in the different indicators and that’s very good news, but we have a long way to go to make sure that solidifies. With luck, Errol, this week will be decisive,” the mayor told NY1. “As soon as the following week — by the end of the following week — we may be able to get things back to where we were when we started September.”
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Watch the full “Mondays with the Mayor” interview above.
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