More than 50 arrests were made in Manhattan on Nov. 4 after peaceful demonstrations escalated into clashes between law enforcement officers and protesters as the night wore on, the New York Police Department (NYPD) said.
The department stated that dozens of people “attempted to hijack” a peaceful protest by lighting fires, hurling garbage and eggs, and fighting with officers.
The arrests came after hundreds of peaceful protesters converged on Washington Square Park demanding the counting of every presidential election vote. Bicycles led the march to help clear traffic. A smaller group rallied against police misconduct.
“We appreciate and value the importance of freedom of speech. Our top priority is and always will be safety” the NYPD wrote on Twitter. “We have arrested more than 20 individuals who attempted to hijack a peaceful protest by lighting fires, throwing garbage and eggs in Manhattan.”
We support everyone’s right to self-expression, but setting fires puts others at risk and will not be tolerated. We are working to de-escalate the situation near Morton Street in the West Village to prevent further damage from occurring. pic.twitter.com/4nTK6UUBzC
— NYPD NEWS (@NYPDnews) November 5, 2020
The department later said that while it supports everyone’s right to self-expression, “setting fires puts others at risk and will not be tolerated.”
The police department posted on Twitter photos of several trash fires. Bystander video showed officers in helmets and tactical gear swarming protesters.
“We are working to de-escalate the situation near Morton Street in the West Village to prevent further damage from occurring,” police said.
Several more photos of items confiscated from rioters were later shared by the NYPD, including M-80 explosives and knives.
“These are not just fireworks, these are M-80s that could have caused serious injuries. Our officers recovered them from the vicinity of 5th Ave. and 8th St. tonight after dispersing a large group,” the department wrote on Twitter.
“These weapons, confiscated at protests tonight, put others at risk. Bringing weapons to peaceful protests cannot and will not be tolerated. We are currently working to de-escalate the situation. Anyone caught with a weapon will be arrested.”
In the lead up to Election Day, federal authorities and state officials cautioned that given existing social tensions, Nov. 3 and the days that follow could be marred by violence, widespread property damage, isolated violent incidents, and a long stretch of mass protests.
The New Jersey Department of Homeland Security and Preparedness had warned in a threat assessment (pdf) late September that a number of threats from domestic extremists and foreign adversaries that have emerged due to the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus pandemic, anti-government sentiment, nationwide civil unrest, and various forms of disinformation, will begin to converge with the presidential election “in a manner not previously experienced by our nation.”
The threat assessment warns that threat actors, including nation-states such as China, Iran, and Russia may magnify existing issues to potentially create chaos during the election period.
NYPD Chief of Department Terence Monahan said during an October press briefing that this year’s election is “more contentious than in years past.”
“We should anticipate and prepare for protests growing in size, frequency, and intensity leading up to the election and likely into the year 2021,” Police Commissioner Dermot Shea said in an internal memo obtained by Fox News.
Owners of luxury Manhattan buildings, meanwhile, have hired armed guards and off-duty officers in anticipation of possible civil unrest, the New York Post reported.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.