AFTERNOON HEADLINES: NYPD Seizes Broad Authority Over Free Speech in Late Election Day Move
Late on Election Day, the NYPD announced it might create frozen zones in Manhattan in hopes of preventing violence — though who would be committing it remains unclear, multiple media outlets reported.
Gothamist and Patch reported that the agency, which technically works for the progressive mayor, was planning to create no-go zones, but Streetsblog saw one of them on Sixth Avenue and 57th Street (one block west of Trump Tower) at around 3:30 p.m., with car and bike traffic not allowed to continue north.
Many businesses in Midtown are boarded up in a fear stoked by President Trump’s declaration that if he loses the Nov. 3 election it is the result of a fix tally. The offices of Fox News Channel, on Sixth Avenue was like a fortress on Tuesday afternoon:
Scores of cops were in position late in the day. An eerie calm came over Midtown, with whatever office workers are still employed emptying out of the area by 4 p.m. Later, the Daily News reported that the NYPD asked clergy members not to encourage their congregations to join peaceful protests — prompting outrage from the clergy.
Most of the early coverage of the potential for violence — and the NYPD’s role in keeping the peace … or not — was on Twitter:
The NYPD confirmed to @GwynneFitz that they're prepared to deploy controversial "freeze zones" in NYC, but declined to provide further info.
— Jake Offenhartz (@jangelooff) November 3, 2020
Activist Doug Gordon saw a symbol in the NYPD’s security moves:
It's almost poetic that as democracy faces the biggest test it's seen in generations the self-professed progressive mayor of New York City who ran on a platform of police reform is limiting free speech and deferring to an unelected paramilitary organization. https://t.co/1Nw7VQ60Fo
— Doug Gordon / Volunteer Text Call Vote (@BrooklynSpoke) November 3, 2020
Other activists opined in a Daily News op-ed hours earlier on Tuesday that the NYPD must stand back because it can’t be trusted.
Cops were still mustering at 1 Police Plaza in the late afternoon, Gothamist’s Chris Robbins reported:
Hundreds of NYPD Strategic Response Group bike cops pose for cameras outside 1 Police Plaza while SRG head Deputy Chief John D’Adamo gives a pre-election night interview pic.twitter.com/7KxzEx7Hvp
— Christopher Robbins (@ChristRobbins) November 3, 2020
SoHo somehow got even cornier pic.twitter.com/Quv1sFqMLK
— Christopher Robbins (@ChristRobbins) November 3, 2020
The anxiety being felt across the city — and perhaps the nation — stems almost entirely from a narrative coming from the president, who has become the first president in modern times to indicate he will dispute the election results in the event that he loses. He also said at his last debate with his challenger Joe Biden that the White supremacist group The Proud Boys should “stand back” for now … and also “stand by” in the event that the results are not to the president’s liking.
The NYPD’s role in keeping the peace has also come under repeated questioning in the last week, given that the police officers’ and sergeants’ unions — who represent more than 25,000 NYPD employees — have endorsed the president for re-election. Streetsblog asked Mayor de Blasio about that condundrum last week, but more questions have arisen since, most recently with NY1’s Pat Kiernan questioning the mayor, who gave his standard answer — with one minor difference: to Streetsblog, the mayor said he was confident that his mostly suburbs-residing police force keeps their politics at home. To Kiernan, de Blasio was less certain, perhaps because of last week’s incident where a cop campaigned for the president from his squad car:
What I’ll tell all our officers, and I think they know it already is, leave your politics at the door. The minute you put on that uniform, you represent all of us. And I really believe, Pat, the overwhelming majority of officers understand that and comport themselves professionally. Anyone who doesn’t is going to suffer the consequences. Look, we had an officer last weekend, decided to express some pro-Trump views. You’re not allowed to express partisan political views in uniform. That officer was suspended right away. So, we will not tolerate any officer taking their political views and trying to take advantage of, you know, the wearing of the uniform. But look, I don’t expect that. If there’s a few bad apples, they’re going to be dealt with, but overwhelmingly what we’ve seen is the police doing what they’re supposed to do, respecting and supporting the democratic process. We’ve seen that at the poll sites with early voting, we’ve seen that year after year. We see that at the protests [inaudible] with poll sites and protests, but remember also, Pat, there’s a stereotype that has to be bluntly confronted here. Our police force is diverse in every sense, politically, ethnically, where people live, more than half our officers are people of color, almost half our officers live in New York City. There’s a wide range of political views. I’m a little thrown by the notion that when people talk about the NYPD, the only image that comes into a lot of people’s minds is, you know, a pro-Trump, suburban, older, white male officer. That’s actually not the NYPD today. It just isn’t. And let’s respect the fact that officers have a wide range of views. But what we pay them to do is to put on a uniform, protect all of us, and not be political at all. And I really think they understand that.