A black New York senator believes African-Americans are being wrongly targeted by police as he recalls how he was pepper-sprayed and arrested during protests that continue to engulf major cities across the US in the wake of George Floyd’s death.
Senator Zellnor Myrie was a part of peaceful protests on Friday in New York City when police officers on bicycles advanced on the crowd.
In his attempts to shield protesters from officers “hitting us in our legs and backs” while being yelled at and shoved, officers pepper sprayed Senator Myrie and placed him in handcuffs.
He later shared Reuters photos of his arrest to his Twitter account, sparking widespread anger over the handling of protesters.
The tweet, simply captioned “Pain”, and showing a screaming Senator Myrie as two officers restrain him, has since been liked more than 40,000 times.
In the images, he is wearing a bright green t-shirt with Senator Myrie written on the back. He said he alerted law enforcement as soon as he arrived at the protest that he was there.
He appeared on Channel Nine’s Today show on Wednesday morning, revealing he believes he, like many other protesters, were targeted simply because of the colour of his skin.
“It goes to the heart of why we are protesting. Many of us have been targeted simply because we are
“The numbers bear that out. The deaths bear that out. The lack of consequences bear that out as well.
“There is a lack of trust between black communities and law enforcement because we've been treated as disposable.”
Senator Myrie revealed he was released shortly after when one officer realised his identity.
Yet he believes other protesters were not as lucky, many of whom are facing criminal records, he said.
“There were many people I was protesting with that did not have the luxury of a title, didn't have the connections and they are suffering through that right now.”
Looting continues to mar New York protests
Unrest throughout New York City has worsened in the days since Senator Myrie’s arrest.
The city will remain under curfew until at least Sunday after another night of looting marred largely peaceful protests over Floyd's death in police custody in Minneapolis.
Shopkeepers and cleaning crews swept glass from shattered windows and boarded up storefronts in midtown Manhattan on Tuesday morning (local time), one of the areas worst hit by the looting.
After ransacking luxury stores in SoHo on Sunday night, looters targeted the shopping district at the city's heart on Monday night, including Macy's iconic flagship department store in Herald Square.
Sneakers were scattered on the glass-covered floor of a nearby Foot Locker store. Cleaning crews tried to wash away signs of the night's events from building walls.
Mayor Bill de Blasio on Tuesday condemned the looting as unacceptable. He told a daily briefing he was extending an 8pm to 5am curfew through Sunday "to ensure there will be peace and order today and tonight, all week in New York City."
Monday's decision by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and the mayor to impose the first curfew, beginning at 11pm, in the city since 1943 did not succeed in halting violence and looting overnight.
More than 700 people were arrested on Monday night into Tuesday morning, New York Police Commissioner Dermot Shea said, as thousands of protesters across the city demanded reforms and an end to police brutality.
Cuomo said on Tuesday the police failed to stop looting and other crime in the city and that de Blasio underestimated the scope of the problem.
De Blasio, who said the protests have been largely peaceful, called on community leaders to step forward and help quell the violence.
"Do not let outsiders attack your community, do not let a violent few attack your community, do not let criminals attack your community, stand up," he said.
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