ALBANY, NY (WSKG) – Gov. Andrew Cuomo said he’s outraged and disappointed over the continued looting of several stores that took place overnight in New York City, and he said that city’s mayor and police department did not do their jobs.
But he stopped short of saying that he would deploy the state’s National Guard to any city without a request by its political leaders.
Cuomo said the people who are breaking into the stores and stealing are different from the largely peaceful protesters, whom he supports. He said the two groups need to be treated differently.
On Monday night, shops in Manhattan, including Macy’s flagship store in Herald Square and shops in Rockefeller Center, were broken into, even though a newly imposed 11 p.m. curfew was in effect. Cuomo said the New York Police Department failed to stop them.
“I am disappointed and outraged,” Cuomo said. “They are supposed to protect the community and protect the property. They did not do that in New York City last night.”
The governor said the state’s National Guard is on standby, and he has offered to send them. But he said no mayor in any city in the state, including New York City’s Bill de Blasio, has requested their help. And Cuomo said he won’t deploy them unless asked by local leaders, saying it would cause chaos, and he’d have to “kick out” the mayor from office in order to do it.
“You’d have to displace a mayor in the middle of this situation, and file charges and have a hearing,” Cuomo said. “Governmentally, it is absurd.”
Cuomo, who’s had differences with de Blasio in the past, said he has no plans to try to remove him.
The governor said the National Guard is not a trained police force, and he believes that the NYPD, with its 38,000-member force — the largest in the nation — can stop the looting if deployed properly and given the right direction and support to carry out the mission.
The governor’s remarks drew an angry response from de Blasio’s press secretary, Freddi Goldstein, who said in a statement that the governor’s comments “are offensive to the men and women of the NYPD who are out there every night trying to keep New Yorkers safe.”
Goldstein wrote: “It would be nice if our officers knew they had the respect of their governor.”
President Donald Trump said Monday that if states did not send in their National Guard to put down protests, he would send U.S. military troops to states to help quell the demonstrations. Trump also used the military to use tear gas to clear away peaceful protesters outside the White House grounds so he could visit a nearby church, where he had a photo opportunity.
Cuomo and other Democratic governors condemned those actions, and Cuomo said it’s very different than a governor offering a state’s National Guard to aid local police.
“(It’s the) first time in probably over a century, where you’ve used the American military against the American people,” Cuomo said.
There has also been looting in upstate cities, including Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse and Albany, where store windows have been broken and cash and merchandise stolen, but the governor said the situations in those cities are largely under control now.
The protests and looting incidents, as well as new accusations of police misconduct, are all going on during the COVID-19 pandemic and the gradual reopening of the state.
Cuomo announced that western New York will begin phase two of reopening Tuesday, and the Capital Region is on track to begin phase two on Wednesday. New York City is scheduled to begin phase one on June 8.
The number of people newly hospitalized for the virus is at its lowest point since the crisis began, and 58 New Yorkers died from COVID-19 on Monday.
The governor said summer day camps can open statewide June 29, but no decision has been made yet on sleep-away camps.