Peaceful protesters, mostly-outsider anarchists and largely homegrown looters have converged on New York’s streets in a perfect storm of chaos during the George Floyd demonstrations, city officials said Wednesday.
In the clearest delineation yet of the three, often-competing factions, Mayor Bill de Blasio and NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea in a joint press briefing outlined the forces at work.
“The vast majority of people who have been out these last six days have been peaceful,” said de Blasio from City Hall, in reference to those who have taken to the streets nationwide demanding justice for George Floyd, a black man who died on May 25 after a white Minneapolis cop knelt on his neck.
But working among the cover of those groups are two other forces with intentions far less pure, Hizzoner said.
“A small number of people aim to do violence toward police, particularly that kind of anarchist group,” continued de Blasio. “Some of whom, as we’ve said, come from the outside, certainly many of whom are protesting in communities they are not from.”
John Miller, the NYPD’s Deputy Commissioner of Intelligence and Counterterrorism, had previously said that the anarchists used encrypted communications to mobilize and converge on New York even before the protests began, signaling an intent to capitalize on the unrest.
While the anarchists appeared to have some interest in looting, according to Miller, their larger goal was violence against the police and destruction for destruction’s sake, said de Blasio and Shea.
“We’ve had, in The Bronx, bricks thrown at cops and the precinct station houses,” Shea said Wednesday. “We’ve seen some of those innocuous plastic bottles that you see thrown during protests where it’s only a water bottle. [What] the media has not reported is that those water bottles are often filled with cement.
“We have vehicles that would appear as if our doors are hit with a Louisville Slugger swung by, you know, Mark McGwire, leaving dents in the car doors, by a simple water bottle filled with cement.”
Most of the looting, in fact, appears to be the work of native New Yorkers, often working in concert, the officials said.
“Then [there’s] an organized group of criminals doing things like looting for pure financial gain, pure criminal gain, nothing to do with the protest whatsoever,” said de Blasio. “Just plain old crime, and they will be dealt with.”
The opportunists, who have laid waste in particular to trendy shopping districts in SoHo and along Fifth Avenue, generally hail from inside the five boroughs, according to Shea.
“We’re seen a lot from Brooklyn, from The Bronx coming south to Manhattan,” he said. “We’ve seen some looting [a] couple nights ago in The Bronx, there was a number of Bronx homegrown residents participating in that.”
Many of the looters prepared their getaway in advance by stashing cars, vans and trucks many of them with stolen plates — in the area prior to striking, police sources told The Post.
In at least one instance, a U-Haul moving truck was used in a getaway, though Shea called it “an aberration.”
Sources credited a number of tactical changes made going into Tuesday night with creating a much more peaceful night that the city had seen on Sunday and Monday.
Uber and Lyft stopped running at 8 p.m. to coincide with an historic citywide curfew set to run through at least June 7 — and Citi Bike too was taken off line.
In addition to their own cars, looters had used all three services to make getaways in nights prior, sources said.
Patrols were also beefed up on subway platforms Tuesday to head off looters looking to make a subterranean escape, sources said.
But among the most pivotal moves, sources said, was cops holding the line against thousands of protesters attempting to cross the Manhattan Bridge from Brooklyn.
Though the stand-off was “very tense” at times, one source said, it proved crucial because it prevented the Brooklyn contingent from linking up with those in Manhattan, making for two more manageable crowds.
Shea vowed to continue cracking down on the criminal elements among the legitimate protesters.
“I draw a line of distinction [between] the protest overwhelmingly peaceful — and some people trying to disrupt that and cause mayhem,” he said. “I draw a distinction between protesters and the looting.
“These are people taking advantage.”
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