The Manhattan District Attorney’s Office has said it will not prosecute arrests for unlawful assembly or disorderly conduct related to recent demonstrations held to protest the death of George Floyd.
The former policy of the office had been to offer those charged with such offenses what’s known as an “Adjournment in Contemplation of Dismissal.” Under this policy, charges would be dropped within six months barring any additional criminal activity.
That all changed as of Friday, after hundreds of protesters had been facing those charges.
“Under the new policy, the D.A.’s Office declines to prosecute these arrests in the interest of justice,” the office said in a statement on its website.
“We have a moral imperative to enact public policies which assure all New Yorkers that in our justice system and our society, black lives matter and police violence is a crime.”
Learn more about our new policy ⏩ https://t.co/PIclQUn2CC
— Cyrus Vance, Jr. (@ManhattanDA) June 5, 2020
Although unlawful assembly and disorderly conduct were the only two charges singled out, the statement said the Manhattan DA’s Office “will also continue to evaluate and decline to prosecute other protest-related charges where appropriate.”
Protests and in some cases riots have raged for more than a week in New York City, leading to injuries to both police and protesters as well as damage to Manhattan, Brooklyn and other parts of the city.
“The prosecution of protestors charged with these low-level offenses undermines critical bonds between law enforcement and the communities we serve,” Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. said in the statement.
“Days after the killing of George Floyd, our nation and our city are at a crossroads in our continuing endeavor to confront racism and systemic injustice wherever it exists. Our office has a moral imperative to enact public policies which assure all New Yorkers that in our justice system and our society, black lives matter and police violence is a crime,” he said.
“We commend the thousands of our fellow New Yorkers who have peacefully assembled to demand these achievable aims, and our door is open to any New Yorker who wishes to be heard.”
Some pushed back against the new policy:
You’re not moving forward by not arresting lawbreakers because you agree with their ideology. That’s perverting justice…but I do thank you for helping ruin NYC and helping to get Trump re-elected!
— Joseph Markowitz (@MarkowitzJoseph) June 7, 2020
We need a new DA, who isn’t letting criminals free while our city burns. Honestly just pathetic
— OL (@olivele11126126) June 7, 2020
#nypd should just call out sick for the next week. You obviously don’t want to uphold the law and protect the city
— woody (@Jwoodymd) June 7, 2020
The DA’s office said its policies are “designed to minimize unnecessary interactions with the criminal justice system, reduce racial disparities and collateral consequences in low-level offense prosecutions, and enable the Office and court system to preserve resources for the prosecution of serious crimes.”
The office, however, insisted that it would act if necessary.
“If evidence emerges that any individuals personally participated in violence against police officers, destruction, or looting, such individuals will be charged with appropriate crimes,” the statement said.
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