By Alan Feuer and Azi Paybarah; nytimes.com:
Thousands of demonstrators protesting the death of George Floyd took to the streets of New York City for a third day on Saturday, blocking traffic, tagging police cars with graffiti and massing at separate marches in Harlem, Brooklyn, Queens and outside Trump Tower in Midtown Manhattan. In the late afternoon, protesters in the Flatbush section of Brooklyn confronted the police in a series of push-and-pull street melees, hurling empty bottles and pieces of debris at officers, who responded with billy clubs and pepper spray. The skirmishes came one day after far more violent protests erupted outside Barclays Center in Brooklyn, where some in the crowd had hurled bottles and firebombs at the police. More than 200 arrests were made on Friday. It remained unclear how many arrests had been made on Saturday.
As the city woke Saturday morning to images of police officers violently shoving protesters and police vehicles burning in the street, Mayor Bill de Blasio denounced the previous night’s events, issuing an urgent plea for calm while saying he understood the deep anger over racism and police killings that had spurred the demonstrations.The mayor promised that any police officers who had used unnecessary force during the clashes would be held accountable, and he announced an independent inquiry to be led by the state attorney general’s office into how the police had handled Friday night’s protests.“Any aggressive act toward a peaceful protester sends exactly the wrong message,” Mr. de Blasio said at a news conference, referring to videos that show violent acts of apparent police. “We will not accept that kind of behavior. It is unacceptable.”But Mr. de Blasio and the police commissioner, Dermot F. Shea, said that hundreds of demonstrators had come to the rallies on Friday night with the intent to brawl with the police. A firearm was recovered from one protester, and a set of brass knuckles from another. Some protesters came with bricks and threw them at officers, Mr. Shea said. A Molotov cocktail was thrown at an occupied police van at around 1 a.m., Mr. Shea said.
Samantha Shader, 27, of the Catskills region, was arrested in connection with the tossing of the Molotov cocktail and charged with four counts of attempted murder, assault and arson, the police said. While the firebomb she threw shattered a rear window of the van, the officers inside managed to jump out. Friday’s protests had begun peacefully, with hundreds chanting, “Black lives matter,” and, “We want justice,” around Foley Square in Lower Manhattan. Councilman Donovan Richards, a Queens Democrat who is the chairman of the Council’s public safety committee, said the city’s black communities were feeling under siege by what they see as excessive policing.
“I’m feeling their growing tension,” said Mr. Richards, who is black. “It is difficult to be a black American at the moment. We are getting hit hard. We are seeing that our lives are not valued.” But the unrest intensified hours later in Brooklyn as protesters arrived at Barclays Center, where dozens of police officers were waiting with twist-tie handcuffs hanging from their belts and Department of Corrections buses for those who were arrested. A police helicopter and a large drone whirred in the hot air overhead.
On Saturday, the demonstrations started around 1 p.m. with several hundred protesters gathering on Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Boulevard in Harlem.
Calling out Mr. Floyd’s name, the crowd moved down toward the 28th Precinct station house, where it confronted a phalanx of officers with shouts of “Black lives matter,” and, “No justice, no peace.” Shortly after, the protesters made their way on to the West Side Highway, bringing traffic to a standstill. Within hours, other crowds had appeared in Washington Square Park in Greenwich Village, in Times Square and outside Trump Tower, where at least seven people were arrested.