The clash between police and protesters that, once and for all, seemed to sever Bill de Blasio from the city that twice elected him mayor occurred on a Brooklyn street corner just over a mile from where he used to live.
No one died at the intersection of Flatbush and Saint Marks Avenues on the evening of May 31; there are no memorials to the frightening moment when a pair of police cruisers lurched into a crowd of protesters and sent them hurtling onto the pavement. It was a shocking act of aggression more reminiscent of terrorism in recent years than law enforcement. And yet it was a move that de Blasio—a progressive mayor elected on a promise to reduce the very police racism that the demonstrators were protesting—initially saw fit to defend.
“I do believe the NYPD has acted appropriately,” the mayor said that night, after blaming protesters for surrounding and throwing objects at the police cruisers.
Ten days later, the only remnant of the incident at Flatbush and Saint Marks was a metal barricade lying overturned on the sidewalk. Cars whizzed by, Black Lives Matter placards hung on nearby windows, and masked New Yorkers waited for COVID-19 tests in a line outside an urgent-care clinic a couple of blocks away. But as I walked around the intersection Tuesday, I found Devin Khan and his sister taking photos. Khan, 22, had been a restaurant server before the pandemic hit. He told me he was among the protesters knocked down when one of the cruisers barreled into a yellow barricade they were using as makeshift protection from the police. He showed me the red welts on his calf from when he recalls hitting the ground. (A friend of his got it worse, he said, and had his arm gashed so deeply, it needed to be stapled shut at the hospital.)