Racism should be blamed if George Floyd protests cause a spike in coronavirus cases, New York City council member Mark Levine said on Wednesday.
“Let’s be clear about something: if there is a spike in coronavirus cases in the next two weeks, don’t blame the protesters. Blame racism,” Levine, who is the head of the city council’s health committee, wrote on Twitter. “And let’s remember that the police are increasing COVID risk by: using tear gas; herding demonstrators into tight spaces; putting people in crowded jails.”
Massive demonstrations erupted across the country following the killing of Floyd, who is African-American, at the hands of white police officers in Minneapolis. While the demonstrations have led to widespread looting and rioting in major U.S. cities, even peaceful protesters have not adhered to social distancing guidelines despite the continuing risk of coronavirus spread. A meta-analysis in the medical journal The Lancet published on Monday concluded that social distancing is the most effective method of coronavirus mitigation.
“We just spent 93 days limiting behavior, closing down, no school, no business, thousands of small businesses destroyed,” New York governor Andrew Cuomo said on Monday, “And now? Mass gatherings, with thousands of people, in close proximity?…What sense does this make?”
On Tuesday, New York City mayor Bill de Blasio defended his decision to keep religious institutions and small businesses closed until June 8 even as police struggled to contain nightly looting.
“When you see . . . an entire nation, simultaneously grappling with an extraordinary crisis seated in 400 years of American racism, I’m sorry, that is not the same question as the understandably aggrieved store owner or the devout religious person who wants to go back to services,” de Blasio said at a press conference. “We’re not going to treat it like, ‘Why are people outside [at] the bars,’ and not notice that all of America is grappling simultaneously with a horrible crisis….Sorry guys, there’s a world outside New York City.”