ALBANY – Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced a state-wide moment of silence in memory of George Floyd for 2 p.m. Thursday, to coincide with the memorial being held in Minneapolis for the man allegedly murdered by a Minneapolis police officer.
The governor also expressed support for the goals of racial justice protesters during his daily news briefing, and urged that protests remain peaceful.
“I thank the protesters for being mainly peaceful, because then they can make their point,” Cuomo said.
Cities across New York state — and across the country — have seen racial justice protests following the death of Floyd on May 25, after a Minneapolis police officer placed pressure on the prone man’s neck with his knee. In the Capital Region, Albany has seen aggressive protests, and Schenectady, Saratoga Springs, Johnstown and Gloversville have all seen protests that remained peaceful.
“Protesters have a point,” Cuomo said. “They look at what happened to Mr. Floyd, they’re outraged. They’re right.”
Cuomo called the combined crises involving the COVID-19 public health and economic disruption, racial tensions and a highly politicized national election year atmosphere a combustible combination, but urged that they be kept separate.
“It is as dangerous a time as I have ever experienced,” said the 62-year-old governor, in office since 2011. “Keep the issues separate, stay smart.”
“I stand with the protesters in that we need reform,” Cuomo said. “The status quo has tremendous momentum. It is very hard to bring about meaningful change.”
Cuomo didn’t say what reforms he would support, but cited what he called the nation’s long history of “systemic racism.” As he has for several days, he also emphasized that the protesters are different from the people committing acts of looting in New York City and elsewhere.
“They are just young people across the spectrum of America who want meaningful change,” Cuomo said. “They want change and reform, and they’re right.”
The governor also said that COVID-19 testing will be offered to all people who have attended any of the recent protests, at many of which some participants did not wear the masks recommended to slow spread of the coronavirus.
“If you were at one of those protests, I would assume out of an abundance of caution that you have been exposed,” Cuomo said.
Some people exposed to the virus never become ill, but if they do, Cuomo said symptoms don’t show up for four or five days, and if people need hospitalization, that may not be known for eight to twelve days. “If you did have viral spread through these protests, we’re not going to know it for awhile,” he said.
His comments come as the state continues to see the number of people being made sick by the virus decline, with regional economies starting to re-open. “The protesters themselves could cause a spike, so we have to be smart,” Cuomo said.