Mayor lifts curfew a day early after New York’s ‘best night’

A sparsely populated Wall Street while New York was under lockdown last month. (AP pic)

NEW YORK: New York Mayor Bill de Blasio early Sunday lifted a curfew he had imposed on the city for nearly a week as anti-racism protests raged there and nationwide.

“Yesterday and last night we saw the very best of our city,” de Blasio tweeted in announcing that the curfew was over “effective immediately”.

The 8pm-5am curfew – the city’s first in 75 years – ends a day early on the eve of the city’s “reopening” on Monday after more than two months of sheltering-at-home due to the coronavirus pandemic.

This week New York will enter phase one of the state’s plan to reboot economic activities shuttered due to Covid-19, which caused more than 21,000 confirmed and probable deaths in America’s most populous city.

The initial stage of reopening will allow construction and manufacturing to resume. Retail stores will be allowed limited in-store and curbside pickup.

The mayor had extended the controversial curfew on June 2 and moved it up to start more than 20 minutes before sunset, after a number of luxury stores in Manhattan were looted on the heels of mass protests over police brutality.

The second weekend of protests, triggered by the police killing of an unarmed black man, George Floyd, in Minneapolis, drew out marchers by the thousands but were largely peaceful.

Many protesters defied the curfew on Saturday but they were largely ignored by police, who in nights prior had clamped down aggressively on demonstrations that violated the nighttime order.

Over the past week, social media has been deluged with images showing police arresting, cornering and at times beating demonstrators with batons.

Beyond the general call to dismantle systemic racism, the New York protests aim to change a law that shields police discipline records from the public, and cut the 36,000-member police force’s US$6 billion annual budget.