Governor Cuomo: “It is a tough moment, there is no doubt. But there's also no doubt that we have gone through many tough moments in this state and in this country and we have gone through many long nights and we have dealt with many problems. We've dealt with this COVID virus, which frankly is one of the most frightening challenges that we have confronted. And we have a lot to do and we have a lot to do at the same time. Address the righteous outrage at Mr. Floyd's murder. Yes, with a real reform agenda, yes. Do it now, yes. When does change come in society? Change comes when the people are mobilized and outraged. That's when change comes. That's when we passed gun safety in this state. That's when we passed marriage equality in this state. That's what happened in this nation after the Triangle Shirt Waist Factory fire, that's what happened after the Great Depression. Those are the moments of great change. And this can be a moment of great change. And seize the moment. At the same time, we have to heal the divisions.”
Cuomo: "To the protesters, for tonight, I ask them to be calm, be peaceful, so the police don't have to spend a lot of time with the protesters and the police can do their job with the looting and the criminal activity. I also remind the protesters that their point is very important and their outrage is justified. But keep in mind during this moment when you're going out to protest, we're still in the middle of the COVID pandemic….Yes, protest, yes, express your outrage, but be responsible because the last thing we want to do is see a spike in the number of COVID cases, and that is one of the complications of these compounding crises.”
Earlier today, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo responded to the escalating violence and looting that is happening amid otherwise peaceful protests in New York City and across the state.
AUDIO of today's remarks is available here.
PHOTOS are available on the Governor's Flickr page.
A rush transcript of the Governor's remarks is available below:
Good morning. Let me introduce the people at the table with me. To my far right — Major West. My immediate right — Superintendent of the State Police, Keith Corlett. To my left — Melissa DeRosa, Secretary to the Governor.
Yesterday was another long, ugly day and night all across this country. New York State was not an exception. Today is day 94 of the COVID pandemic. It’s day nine of the situation that we’re dealing with, with the killing of Mr. Floyd. And this is the first time that we’ve spoken about these two situations that we’re dealing with now at the same time. And I think, at this moment of confusion and unrest, the smartest thing is to take a step back and let’s gain a little perspective and let’s just talk as people about this situation.
I do a lot of reading, I always have, about leadership in a crisis — especially government leadership in a crisis. When is government most important? It’s most important at a time of crisis, day in and day out. It does what it does. Sometimes better, sometimes worse. But when it really matters, is in the middle of a crisis. Now, it depends on what type of crisis we have. Some crises government can take care of on its own. Some crises, I can take care of on my own — operational crises, internal crises. But the really difficult ones, are the social crises where it’s not really about government. It’s really about society, it’s really about people. And people have to handle the crisis. Those are the ones that really test not just the capacity of government, the ability of government, the leadership of government — but they also test who we are as a people, and how we respond as a people.
My strategy has been — in this COVID crisis always — you go to the people. You use the people. It’s about them. They are the solution. So, you inform the people. You give them the facts. You give it to them clearly, you give it to them without opinion. You give them the facts completely, so people know you’re being 100 percent open and honest. You then offer a plan after you give the facts, right? During this COVID crisis, I say, “Here are the facts,” and then I say, “Here’s my opinion.” I like to think the opinion is based on the facts, but people can agree or disagree. But offer a plan based on those facts then ask for support of that plan. That’s what I’ve always done. That’s what we’ve done during this COVID crisis, which has frankly, worked very well for this State.
You look at the progress we have made — it’s breathtaking. How far we’ve come and how fast we’ve come. This situation — we have multiple crises that are colliding and that creates confusion and disorientation and that’s where we are now. We have the COVID crisis that is still going on. At the same time, we have a new crisis from the civil unrest from the murder of Mr. Floyd. I believe that’s what it was — I believe it was a murder. And then to further compound the situation, you have an environment that is racially-charged and politically-charged. So, you’re trying to deal with these two situations, which are very different, in the middle of the dynamic in this country of racial division and a hyper-political environment and a nation that is more divided than it has been at any time in my lifetime. Just a basic division in this country.
So, what do we do? First, take a step back, gain some perspective, and separate the issues. You want this solved? Let’s understand what we’re trying to solve for first. COVID-19. Let’s take that issue and pull it out. On the COVID-19 issue, day 94, we have more good news today. Number of hospitalizations is down. Number of new COVID cases walking in the door is at an all-time low – 154. Congratulations to the people of the state of New York. Look at what you did. Look at the progress you made. God bless you.
Number of deaths just about as low as we have seen it. The numbers, again, are not 100 percent accurate given the system, but you see the overall direction. So, we’re doing very, very well when it comes to dealing with the COVID-19 crisis.
Buffalo enters Phase II today, Western New York. Capital District should enter Phase II tomorrow, all the numbers indicate that. Our experts are going over the numbers, but there’s no reason to believe that the Capital District doesn’t go into Phase II tomorrow. I fully plan to affirm that later this afternoon. Capital Region will go into Phase II. New York City’s on track, in the midst of all of this, to open Phase I next Monday. Summer day camps are going to open on June 29th. We’re still reviewing the situation with sleep away camps.
So, that’s the COVID situation. That’s going very well. Civil unrest post-Mr. Floyd’s killing – that’s also a complex situation with a number of levels. You have protestors who are outraged at what has happened and you have criminal activity, looting, extremist groups, who are using this moment for their own purposes and exploiting this movement and moment. Two very different things.
On the protestors, they’re outraged. By the way, I agree with them. What happened to Mr. Floyd was a disgrace. It was repugnant to America. It was repugnant to any good policing perspective or strategy or approach. And it’s not just Mr. Floyd, this was not an isolated instance. It goes back to Rodney King and Amadou Diallo and Abner Louima and Eric Garner and cases just like it all across this country. At one point, enough is enough and people say I can’t believe this is still going on after all of this time. Rightful outrage.
By and large, the protestors have been peaceful. They’re upset, they’re angry, yes, but they have not been violent. They have been peaceful protests. What do they want? They want overdue reforms. They want reforms that should’ve been done 30, 40, 50 years ago. They want America to be better. I don’t yet believe we’ve yet specified an agenda, but you know the agenda forward. You know what we should learn from Mr. Floyd’s murder, so he did not die in vain. You need independent investigations of police abuse. You need discovery of records of police who are being investigated. How do you still allow chokeholds in the United States of America? Why can’t you have a national standard of what is excessive force? And I think the justice agenda should even go forward, because it's not just about police abuse. There's injustice in housing, there's injustice in health care, there's injustice in unemployment, there's injustice in income distribution, there's injustice in education. I would make education equity part of that agenda, I would make child poverty part of that agenda, and I wouldn't wait for next year. I think that Congress should pass those laws now. That's all outrage at what happened at Mr. Floyd’s killing, and how do we learn, and move forward, and reform, and that's what the protesters are talking about, and that is what this nation is all about. The right to protest, the right to air grievances, and the right to raise issues so government responds.
That's one situation. There's a totally different situation that has nothing to do with the protesters. People see this moment and they exploit it. And that is criminal activity and that is looting. That is people breaking store windows, going in and stealing. That's called criminal activity. They have no right to wrap themselves in the flag of righteous indignation of Mr. Floyd’s murder. They demean Mr. Floyd’s murder by using this as an opportunity for criminal activity. And that's what they're doing. They're opportunists who are seizing and exploiting the moment.
New York City was looted. It was looted yesterday. In Manhattan, middle of Manhattan, also in communities of color, in the Bronx and in Brooklyn, where we've spent years doing economic development in distressed communities and these looters destroyed businesses that were essential to the community and the very people we're trying to help. That is a very different situation. The police must stop the looting and the criminal activity. That is the essence of the police force. They are supported to protect the community, protect the property. They did not do that in New York City last night. They did not do that in New York City last night. And I am disappointed and outraged at what happened in New York City last night. Those looters, that criminal activity, hurt everyone. In the communities of the protesters, which are the communities that tend to be the poorest communities in New York City. And the police in New York City were not effective at doing their job last night, period. They have to do a better job. But, separate the protesters from the looting.
They are two very different situations with two very different responses, two very different motivations. They're different people, different issues. There is no comparison between those two. The looting, the criminal activity must be stopped immediately, period. Especially in New York City. We've had activity all across the state, all manageable, except in New York City. Now, from the state's point of view, I have offered all the mayors of the cities support, state police support or National Guard or both. We have 13,000 National Guard who are on standby who can be deployed. We have the state police mobilized all across the state. They can be deployed anywhere in this state. State police are working with many cities in upstate New York. New York City has said they don't want or need the National Guard, which would be a large-scale support network that we could bring to New York City.
Most cities have enacted a curfew. The purpose of their curfew is to help the police deal with the looters. The curfew is not about the protesters, as I said, most of the protesters have been peaceful, they have been nonviolent. The curfew is not to harass protesters. It is not to harass law-abiding citizens. The curfews are designed to help the police deal with the looters. New York City had a curfew last night. Obviously, it wasn't enough to help deal with the looters. The other cities also have curfews, different times, different durations, all set locally by the mayors across the state.
But what's happening in this environment with all the politics, with all the anger and rage, all of these issues are getting blurred. COVID-19 is one issue. The outrage over Mr. Floyd’s murder is another issue. The protesters are one issue. Looters are a totally different issue. We can't blur the line between these problems. Otherwise you wind up solving nothing because one is blurring into the other. The protesters are separate from the looters. We have this hyper-political moment. We’re in the middle of an election season so everybody is playing politics, and a lot of people want to say “The looters are the protesters. They’re one. They’re all criminals.” No, they're not. No, they're not. It’s because you don't want to address the Mr. Floyd murder. So it's convenient to say they're all looters.
They’re not all looters. They’re Americans who are outraged at what happened to Mr. Floyd. That’s who they are. There’s racial tension in this country. Suggesting, “Well, the protests are about African Americans who are upset.” Yes, African Americans are upset. But you know what? A lot of white people are upset. I’m white and I’m upset. You look at those videos of the protests in Washington, D.C. Those are young white faces, predominantly. This is not a racial issue in that only African Americans are upset. This is anyone who saw that video is upset – anyone. Don’t make this a racial issue and don't make it a political issue and don't blur the lines for your political purposes.
To the protesters, for tonight, I ask them to be calm, be peaceful, so the police don't have to spend a lot of time with the protesters and the police can do their job with the looting and the criminal activity. I also remind the protesters that their point is very important and their outrage is justified. But keep in mind during this moment when you're going out to protest, we're still in the middle of the COVID pandemic. We’re just reopening Western New York. We’re just reopening the Capital District. We’re going to reopen New York City this coming Monday. Yes, protest, yes, express your outrage, but be responsible because the last thing we want to do is see a spike in the number of COVID cases, and that is one of the complications of these compounding crises. I know a lot of the protesters are so annoyed they don't want to hear about COVID anymore. “COVID is yesterday's news.” No, COVID is still a problem. And COVID still kills also. So be mindful and respective of that.
But look, it is a tough moment, there is no doubt. But there's also no doubt that we have gone through many tough moments in this state and in this country and we have gone through many long nights and we have dealt with many problems. We've dealt with this COVID virus, which frankly is one of the most frightening challenges that we have confronted. And we have a lot to do and we have a lot to do at the same time. Address the righteous outrage at Mr. Floyd's murder. Yes, with a real reform agenda, yes. Do it now, yes. When does change come in society? Change comes when the people are mobilized and outraged. That's when change comes. That's when we passed gun safety in this state. That's when we passed marriage equality in this state. That's what happened in this nation after the Triangle Shirt Waist Factory fire, that's what happened after the Great Depression. Those are the moments of great change. And this can be a moment of great change. And seize the moment.
At the same time, we have to heal the divisions. We’re not black and white. We're Americans. We're not Democrats and Republicans. We're Americans. You're not going to address these challenges if you keep dividing. It's not going to happen. At the same time, we have to protect our community and property, the looting, the criminal activity has to be stopped. Police have to do their job. And we have to help the police do their job. And at the same time, we still have to stop the spread of COVID-19. Wow. All those things at the same time. Yes. Yes. All separate issues. All difficult. But also, all doable. Just gain some perspective, separate the issues, deal with each one, keep the politics and the ugliness and the racism out of it. Use this. We're going to do it because we've done it before and because that's what it means to be New York Tough, right? Smart, smart, keep your perspective, separate the issues, deal with the facts. Let's deal with facts, okay? Not hyperbole, not rhetoric, not showmanship, not photo opportunities, facts. Give me the facts. Let's be united. Don't use this moment with all these problems to play your politics. Don't do it. Don't use this moment when people are scared and people are angry and be divisive. Don't play to the fear, don't do that. Not when the nation is on this precarious edge. Don't do that. That's the one weak spot for this nation always – E pluribus unum, we just put it on our state seal, out of many, one. The enduring promise, the continuing challenge. How do you do it? We're not black and white, we're not Democratic and Republican, we're not urban and rural, we're America. Stay united, stay disciplined and stay loving. You need the most love when things are the most difficult. And that's where we are today.