'No more tolerance': NYPD breaks up peaceful protests after curfew

NEW YORK CITY (WABC) -- The NYPD changed tactics during a tamer night of protests Wednesday, breaking up peaceful demonstrations after the curfew had passed, angering some elected officials.

Advocates credited the new approach with stopping some of the destruction of previous nights, but critics said the calm came at a high price as the city was forced to grind to a halt at 8 p.m.

Bridges were closed to traffic, and police arrested dozens of orderly people for violating the curfew. About an hour after the deadline to get off the street, officers began moving in on crowds of demonstrators in Manhattan and Brooklyn, at times blasting people with pepper spray or using batons to shove people who didn't move fast enough.

Two large peaceful protests that continued after the curfew were broken up by police, resulting in 180 arrests in both Downtown Brooklyn and on the Upper East Side.

NYPD Chief of Department Terence Monahan said about 60 people were arrested near Central Park out of a large band of protesters who had marched from near the mayor's residence, Gracie Mansion. Police moved in just before a heavy rain began.

"No more tolerance," he said. "They have to be off the street, an 8 p.m. curfew. We gave them to 9 p.m., and there was no indication that they were going to leave these streets. We're just not going to take it."

Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, who attended a rally in downtown Brooklyn, expressed outrage that peaceful demonstrations were broken up.

"I can't believe what I just witnessed & experienced," Williams wrote on twitter. He called the use of force on nonviolent protesters "disgusting."

NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea said the NYPD's use of force was justified, but officials are reviewing about seven instances that may result in discipline.

The arrests punctuated what was otherwise the quietest night since the protests began last Thursday. For the first time, no violence or vandalism was reported.

Bridges were closed, but no protesters attempted to cross into Manhattan. SoHo was once again closed with tape, but no one appeared to be wandering the streets or in cars casing the neighborhood .

In Downtown Brooklyn, hundreds of protesters marched for hours. They stopped at courthouses chanting for justice and marched to Cadman Plaza, where a memorial for George Floyd was held Thursday afternoon followed by a march across the Brooklyn Bridge to Foley Square

Police surrounded them at Cadman and Tillary streets just after 9 p.m. The protesters stood peacefully, their hands up, chanting. Officers pushed them out of the plaza, prompting scuffles as they were pushed back into the Downtown Brooklyn streets.

Williams posted videos showing the police forcefully moving protesters out of the plaza, and tweeted his disapproval.

"What happened was completely avoidable," he wrote. "I'm so ashamed of @NYCMayor."

On the East Side, another peaceful protest that marched through Manhattan for hours, including past the mayor's residence at Gracie Mansion, where protesters held a rally with nearly 30 minutes of silence that ended when police surrounded them at Third Avenue and East 50th Street.

Protesters took a knee, and police pushed into the crowd to break them up.

As the evening deepened, there were few reports of the mayhem that had occurred on several days of demonstrations, when protesters burned police vehicles and showered officers with debris. Gone also were the roving bands of people who smashed their way into scores of stores and stole merchandise Sunday and Monday nights.

Protesters also appeared to react more calmly to police attempts to break up crowds, a contrast to the early days of the protests where attempts to break up crowds were sometimes met with thrown objects.

(The Associated Press contributed to this report)

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