NEW YORK (WCBS 880) — Midtown Manhattan was the epicenter of chaos as looting took center stage — from Union Square, to Herald Square, to Times Square — on the first night of a historic curfew in New York City that was imposed in an attempt to stop the violence that has overshadowed peaceful protests in the past week since the death of George Floyd.
The boarding up and cleaning up was underway Tuesday morning outside the Macy's flaghip store in Herald Square, with New Yorkers pitching in.
A group of women runners armed with their own brooms and trash bags came to help.
One woman, named Margaret, is hoping the destruction doesn't cloud the protesters' message.
"At the end of the day black lives matter, systematic racism needs to be addressed and we don't want that message getting lost in any way, so if we can come out and clean a little bit to help with making sure that message is loud and clear then that's what we are here for.
Her friend, Colleen, was in tears over the damage.
"It's horrific. Its like, it draws emotions that I've never felt before and this is home and it just hurts," she said. "We all live here and we have been totally distraught with everything going on."
"There is no justice in the injustice that happened, but this isn't right, it makes me feel hopeless," said Rick Abramson, who moved to the city four years ago from Buffalo for cancer treatment.
The police made hundreds arrests, but despite the curfew, were not able to stop looters from taking out piles of merchandise from Macy's and at other high-end stores, like Chanel on Madison Avenue and Michael Kors in Rockefeller Center. An Urban Outfitters on 35th Street and Broadway was completely trashed.
The looting and destruction spread beyond Manhattan, reaching the Bronx, where an NYPD sergeant was seriously hurt in a hit-and-run and an officer was assaulted by suspected looters.
Leaders in the northern borough on Tuesday called for peace as community members took to the streets to clean.
"We're cleaning this neighborhood for us, you know, not for anybody else," said Destiny, a woman who was seen cleaning up in the aftermath. "Our neighborhoods can get overlooked, you know, and our neighborhoods can get left behind a little bit."
Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. says he was disheartened to see the shopping district destroyed as it was a great story of urban revitalization.
"We've been working too hard, we've been working too long. We've all been working together to make sure we create jobs to help small businesses," he said.
He adds most of the stores that were damaged were minorty-owned: "All these guys did yesterday was destroy the very businesses, the very community that's working so hard to lift up this part of the Bronx and every other part of NYC."
Monday's curfew was in effect from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that the curfew will be in place through Sunday, running from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m.
The last curfew of this kind was imposed back in 1943.
According to an executive order from the mayor, the curfew does not apply to: police officers, peace officers, firefighters, first responders and emergency medical technicians, essential workers, people experiencing homelessness and without access to a viable shelter, and individuals seeking medical treatment or medical supplies.
The MTA said it will continue running service for essential workers during the curfew.