ALBANY – Governor Andrew Cuomo's daily press conferences have shifted to address two major issues, as mass protests continue in the wake of the killing of an unarmed man by police in Minnesota.
He announced Monday that Western New York is expected to move to phase two of reopening Tuesday, and the Capital District is on track to follow suit on Wednesday. New York City is expected to move to phase one June 8. But the international outcry against the murder of George Floyd has added to concerns that efforts to contain the coronavirus may be threatened.
After several nights of protests across the state, particularly with mass protests in New York City, Cuomo said “something has to be done.” He said he “stands with the protesters.” He also said he believes the video of police in the city driving into traffic, pulling down a protester's mask to pepper spray him, assaulting a woman, and the violence which he believes has been the action of criminals and non-protesting infiltrators, all inflame the situation. His concern, in addition to the civic impact of the protests, was the impact the protests might have on the spread of the COVID-19 virus.
“What sense does this make, one week before opening New York City?” he asked.
He pointed out this state took the hardest hit from the pandemic, and it took drastic action to get those numbers down to where reopening could be considered.
“It took us 93 days to get here,” the governor said. “Is this smart?”
Cuomo said the national guard is on standby, and he'll be talking to Mayor Bill DeBlasio about possibly instituting a curfew in New York City.
Cuomo encouraged protesters to demand legislators adopt what he called a “positive reform agenda,” including banning excessive police force and chokeholds, requiring independent investigations of police abuse, disclosing the disciplinary records of officers under investigation, as well as creating education equity, a national anti-poverty agenda, and a “real” national affordable housing plan. He described himself as “perpetually frustrated” by how difficult it is to effect change without overwhelming pressure from the voters.
“Let's use this energy constructively. The people lead. The politicians see where the people are moving and the politicians run to catch up with the people.”
Governor Cuomo said he believe this was a moment that, if focused on specific reform, could result in real change.
“When you come together and you have one agenda, you can do anything....we just showed that. We have to be smart. We have to be smart in this state right now. We have to be smart in New York City tonight.”