NEW YORK (AFP) – New York police cleared a camp of anti-racism protesters and homeless people from outside city hall on Wednesday (July 22), after President Donald Trump threatened to send federal agents to bolster law enforcement in America’s largest city.
NYPD officers – accompanied by cleaners and lawyers – dismantled the tents just before dawn, driving away around 50 demonstrators without clashes or injuries, police chief Dermot Shea told reporters.
The “Occupy City Hall” camp sprung up a month ago following widespread demonstrations against police brutality sparked by the killing in custody of unarmed black man George Floyd in Minneapolis in May.
“What we saw change over the last few weeks was the gathering there got smaller and smaller, was less and less about protests, (and) more and more became an area where homeless folks were gathering.
“It was time to take action,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio.
With the massive anti-police protests subsiding in New York, pressure had been mounting on officials to remove the encampment and graffiti on statues and nearby municipal buildings.
The pressure increased on Monday when Trump warned he could send federal officers to New York and other Democratic-led cities to protect federal buildings and sort out what he says is a collapse of law and order.
The warning sparked an uproar, with local leaders saying the current and unusual deployment of military-garbed federal agents in Portland, Oregon smacked of authoritarianism.
De Blasio reiterated Wednesday that New York would sue Trump’s administration if the president sent federal agents to the US economic capital.
But pressure on New York City is also coming from the governor of New York state, Andrew Cuomo, who said he was “very disturbed” by an uptick in crime in the metropolis, which was hit hard by Covid-19.
Cuomo said he spoke to Trump on Tuesday and asked him not to send federal agents, assuring the president he would take any necessary action.
“I am concerned but not at the level yet that I would declare a public emergency and take intrusive actions,” the governor said.