NYC’s de Blasio Backs Washington Square Curfew Amid Political Backlash
(Bloomberg) -- New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said he would maintain a curfew in Washington Square Park despite clashes with police over the weekend that resulted in numerous arrests in the Greenwich Village neighborhood of lower Manhattan. The decision drew criticism from a number of mayoral candidates looking to replace de Blasio ahead of the June 22 Democratic primary election.
“I’d like to see the point come where it’s no longer necessary,” de Blasio said when asked about the 10 p.m. curfew at a briefing on Monday. “But we’ve had a series of issues and problems and I think a proactive approach is the right way to do it.”
Police arrested two dozen people in the park on Saturday night after implementing the curfew in response to residents who complained about drug use and noise. The city sent dozens of police officers into the park in what appeared to be riot gear after some refused to leave.
It’s unclear what, if anything, the people in the park were protesting against other than the curfew itself. But it could mark an early test of a promise made by the de Blasio administration and the NYPD to improve policing following heavy-handed crackdowns on Black Lives Matter protests last summer.
Some New York City mayoral candidates vying to replace de Blasio, who is term limited, criticized the curfew.
“Sending police in riot gear, the amount of money expended to rough people up, to get them out of a public place rather than to have outreach workers who actually connected them to services and housing, it was a mistake and when I am mayor we are going to make a very different choice,” Maya Wiley, a mayoral candidate and civil rights lawyer who previously worked for de Blasio, said at a campaign stop Monday.
Another mayoral hopeful, Andrew Yang, was also critical of the city’s police response to the protests.
New York Attorney General Letitia James sued the city in January over the police department’s conduct during the protests against police brutality last summer. Her suit alleges pervasive use of excessive force by the NYPD and unlawful policing practices. The litigation is ongoing and James is asking a federal judge to appoint a monitor to observe the department’s conduct during future protests.
Despite the criticism, de Blasio defended the decision to enforce the curfew in the park, which is located close to New York University and has long been an icon of community gathering, public protest and cultural activity.
“I understand and appreciate that if they see a situation where it makes sense to effectuate a closure, I think that’s the smart thing to do,” de Blasio said.
©2021 Bloomberg L.P.