Rise and Shine: June 1, 2020

Good morning, CivMixers. It’s hard to know where to begin.

Rarely do I feel acute relief that a weekend is over. But this weekend was flat-out awful.

A wave of violence, sorrow and rage is tearing apart cities across the nation in response to the death of an unarmed African American man, George Floyd, in Minneapolis on May 25 after a white police officer placed his knee on Floyd’s neck for almost nine minutes while he was handcuffed and prone on the ground.

People old enough to remember the 1960s – like my dad, for example – are harkening back to that dark period in our country’s history. I’ve spoken to Dad a few times, trying to make sense of how we move through this. But like many others, I have no context or previous experience for how to process it all.

We have reached a brand new month – it’s June. And perhaps we will also collectively be able to turn the page and move forward in a more peaceful manner. I am hopeful for the long-term outlook, but not optimistic at this very moment. Does that make sense?

There is some good news on the COVID-19 front in New York, with new cases and deaths continuing to drop. And the reopening process continues to move forward, with New York City getting a date certain for Phase I to begin: June 8.

It’s going to be partly cloudy and windy today, with temperatures climbing toward 70 degrees.

NOTE: Before we get to the headlines, please be forewarned that there’s no way to include every single news item regarding Floyd’s death and the fallout that has occurred as a result of that tragedy. If there is something you really feel strongly should have been mentioned here, please email and let us know.

In the news…

Hundreds of people were arrested over the weekend as protesters and police clashed in cities across America after the killing of Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police sparked more than 100 protests, rallies and vigils.

….Demonstrations also took place overseas.

Atlanta, Seattle, Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia, Columbus, Pittsburgh, Denver, Salt Lake City, Nashville and Minneapolis among others have imposed curfews as they brace for more unrest Saturday night into yesterday morning – and in some cases, beyond that, too.

State government offices in downtown city areas in California will be closed today due to protests, according to a Government Operations Agency spokeswoman.

The police fired tear gas near the White House last night to dissuade protesters who had smashed the windows of prominent buildings, overturned cars and set fires, with smoke seen rising from near the Washington Monument.

After days in which the empathy he expressed for George Floyd was overshadowed by his combative threats to ramp up violence against looters and rioters, the president spent yesterday out of sight, even as some of his campaign advisers were recommending that he deliver a nationally televised address before another night of violence.

Secret Service agents rushed President Trump to a White House bunker on Friday night as hundreds of protesters gathered outside the executive mansion, some of them throwing rocks and tugging at police barricades.

Former VP Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, said that the “open wound” of systemic racism was behind the police killing of a handcuffed black man in Minnesota. Biden also accused Trump, without mentioning him by name, of inciting violence with a tweet that warned that protesters could be shot.

Amid the rush to assign blame for the widespread violence and vandalism breaking out in American cities, accusations that extremists or other outside agitators were behind the destruction continued to ricochet online and on the airwaves.

Health officials in the U.S. have new concerns that the nationwide protests over the Floyd death in police custody could spark a wider spread of the coronavirus after many cities reported bringing the virus under control.

Major companies are often wary of conflict, especially in a polarized time. But some are now taking a stand on racial injustice and police violence. Companies like Nike, Twitter and Citigroup have aligned themselves with the Black Lives Matter movement.

Target is temporarily closing or shortening the hours of about 200 stores in the United States as protests and looting spread across country in the aftermath of Floyd’s death.

Also temporarily closing or curtailing hours as a result of the violence: Apple, CVS and Walmart.

While some police departments have been accused of being heavy handed in their attempts to control protests that turned violent over the weekend, other departments have tried to reach out to protesters to share their grief and help convey their message of peace.

With NYC still reeling from another night of protests and violence over the death of Lloyd, one NYPD commanding officer took a knee alongside demonstrators in Queens yesterday afternoon.

In Houston, Floyd’s hometown, Police Chief Art Acevedo kneeled along with protesters, and has said that he wants to provide a police escort for Floyd’s body as he returns to his hometown to be buried.

Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison, who gained national prominence during his unsuccessful bid for the DNC chair in 2016, will take the lead on all prosecutions related to Floyd’s death at the hands of Minneapolis Police, Gov. Tim Walz said.

Many retailers and restaurants, already crippled by the coronavirus pandemic, are grappling with damage to their properties and new closures following protests sparked by the death of Floyd that have sometimes turned violent.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo used his daily coronavirus briefing yesterday to plead for calm after a night of unrest in cities throughout the state. “Violence never works,” he said.

“How many times have we burned down our own businesses and our own neighborhoods and our own communities?” Cuomo added. “Burning down your own businesses never makes sense. It dishonors Mr. Floyd’s death.”

Cuomo and legislative leaders have for years failed to push for the repeal of a 44-year-old statute that blocks public access to records on internal police investigations – including alleged misconduct. Yesterday, he said for the first time that he would “sign” any bill repealing the law if the lawmakers pass one.

Cuomo has also asked state Attorney General Letitia James to investigate police brutality across the state, not just by the NYPD. Her report is due in 30 days.

The state deployed 200 additional state police to Rochester and 150 to Buffalo after a “long and ugly night all across the nation,” Cuomo said, and was also in talks with Syracuse and Albany to see what additional reinforcement their cities may need.

“I have the National Guard on standby,” Cuomo said. “Any place that needs additional help, where the local police can’t handle it, we have the National Guard and we have State Police.”

Less than 24 hours after a few hundred people inflicted major property damage across the Rochester area, a few thousand more turned up with brooms, gloves and garbage bags and set to work cleaning it up.

In New York City, Mayor Bill de Blasio’s daughter, Chiara, 25, was arrested Saturday night during a protest near Union Square, police sources said.

…Chiara gave a residence on East End Avenue as her address — otherwise known as Gracie Mansion, the mayor’s Upper East Side home. But she didn’t tell cops she was the mayor’s daughter.

Dozens of suspected looters were arrested in Soho last night as protests over the death of Floyd descended into chaos.

Two lawyers were charged with taking part in a Molotov cocktail attack on a police patrol car over the weekend — a human rights lawyer and a Princeton-educated associate at a Manhattan law firm.

The brief video clip, widely circulated on social media and on the national news, seemed to capture a wanton act of police brutality: One police cruiser, and then a second, jolting into a crowd of protesters in Brooklyn, sending people sprawling across the street. But de Blasio’s response was conflicted.

New York City should conduct an independent investigation of the NYPD’s aggressive conduct during protests over the weekend, City Council leaders said, challenging de Blasio’s move to delegate the task to his appointees.

Speaking at a press conference, the Democratic mayor said that NYPD officers have shown “tremendous restraint” handling the demonstrations. Investigators believe outside anarchist groups coordinated efforts to incite violence at the city’s protests, NYPD officials said.

De Blasio announced an independent review of violent protests that erupted in Brooklyn, as demonstrators set a police van on fire and threw objects at New York Police Department officers who made roughly 200 arrests.

A Greene County resident is among three New Yorkers facing federal charges for allegedly throwing homemade explosive devices at New York Police Department vehicles Saturday morning.

Michael Gianaris, the second most powerful leader in the New York Senate, said he will no longer accept campaign contributions from police unions and law enforcement groups following the death of Floyd and tense interactions between protesters and police.

In the Capital Region, city and community leaders yesterday grappled with the fallout from Saturday demonstrations against police brutality that were at first peaceful, but then turned into aggression toward police officers, vandalism and looting – the likes of which the city has not seen in recent memory.

…Dozens of businesses worked to board up broken windows and clean-up the inside of their destroyed storefronts, as others prepared for what might happen after both Albany and Schenectady instituted curfews.

A group of people burglarized Colonie Center early yesterday morning in what appears to be an extension of widespread looting and damage done in Albany.

Albany community activist Dannielle Hille of One Block at a Time organized a clean-up at Arch and Trinity streets.

Albany police arrested a 21-year-old man for allegedly throwing a brick at an officer’s head during Saturday night’s clash between police and protesters at the city’s South Station.

Peaceful protests also took place across the region and the nation.

A protest in Schenectady drew praise for the police, as the chief and officers marched in solidarity with their community yesterday afternoon.

Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz issued a curfew last night into this morning in the wake of destruction that occurred in the City of Buffalo Saturday night.

Buffalo and Erie County officials are working to find out who organized Saturday’s protest in Niagara Square, saying it’s evident the event was not organized by activists known to the community.

With coronavirus deaths continuing to decline in New York, Cuomo expressed hope that the state is approaching a level where fatalities are perhaps not eliminated but are very few.

The federal government’s top official overseeing nursing homes said Cuomo’s executive order in late March that directed the admittance of coronavirus patients from hospitals to nursing facilities did not follow her agency’s guidance.

Cuomo announced that New York dentists can reopen statewide today, and will be subject to state guidance on best practices for safety and social distancing.

DMVs are also starting to reopen around the state.

…today, state-run DMV offices in the counties of Albany, Onondaga, Nassau, Suffolk, Rockland, Westchester and New York City will begin to process vehicle registrations and other transactions by mail.

The number of coronavirus cases in New York City topped 200,000 yesterday, authorities said.

Transit officials are tabling social-distancing goals for New York City’s subways and buses and will rely instead on riders wearing masks to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus.

After the coronavirus upended thousands of wedding plans, New York City started offering virtual appointments for marriage licenses through a program called Project Cupid. But good luck getting a spot.

The state has suspended the liquor licenses of 18 establishments since late March because of social-distancing violations — including one in Queens that allegedly claims local racists are behind the move.

Cities across the U.S. are hemorrhaging money as the coronavirus pandemic shut down commerce, entertainment and tourism activities that provide much of their revenue. They’re trying to choose between severe cuts and taking on more debt.

An alarming spike in fatal drug overdoses on Long Island is linked to the coronavirus pandemic, law enforcement and public health officials said.

The defendant in a 2006 Albany terror case was nearly let out of federal prison early as a result of the coronavirus outbreak, but his family’s effort to see that happened failed at the last minute.

A fraudster from Menands whose Ponzi scheme bilked more than 400 victims out of more than $5.5 million has been granted compassionate release from federal prison due to his poor health and risk of contracting COVID-19 in his Ohio correctional facility.

In an unusual move, a former New York Power Authority employee who had earlier lost a lawsuit alleging racial discrimination has gone back to court to renew his claims of unfair treatment.

A national meat-supply crunch driven by the coronavirus pandemic is beginning to ease, though meat and grocery suppliers expect the effects to linger for months.

Election administrators in New York are bracing for a crush of paper ballots for the state’s June 23 primary contests as voters avoid the polls to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus.

SpaceX delivered two astronauts to the International Space Station for NASA yesterday, following up a historic liftoff with an equally smooth docking in yet another first for Elon Musk’s company.

RIP Christo, an artist whose exuberant and elaborate installations created with his wife, Jeanne-Claude, gave spectators around the world a fresh lens on familiar landmarks. He died yesterday at his New York home at the age of 84.

Photo credit: George Fazio.

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