81% of New Yorkers Who Received Social-Distancing Summonses Black or Latinx

By N. Jamiyla Chisholm May 12, 2020

Less than a week after a video showed officers from the New York Police Department (NYPD) threatening bystanders with a taser while others handcuffed a young Black man on the ground, reports from Newsweek and local station 1010 Wins confirmed that more than 80 percent of New Yorkers who have been hit with social distancing enforcement summonses between March 16 and May 5 are Black or Latinx.

"Of the 374 summonses issued in regard to social distancing, the respondents for 193 of those summonses are Black and the respondents for 111 of those summonses are Hispanic," said an NYPD press release, according to Newsweek. And it’s not just summonses that are skewed; the New York Times reported that on May 7, of the 40 Brooklyn residents who were arrested for violating social-distancing, 35 were Black. The borough’s District Attorney will not prosecute any of the individuals, NY1 confirmed.

Even still, arrest numbers are the data that New York City public advocate Jumaane Williams tweeted that he now wants to see. “304 out of 374 summonses for social distancing went to black and brown New Yorkers,” Williams wrote. “Now, where is the arrest data?…or the accountability?”


For many other New Yorkers, unequal treatment from law enforcement during COVID-19 is seen as the new "stop-and-frisk," a policing tactic found unconstitutional. In a 2019 analysis of stop-and-frisk since Mayor Bill de Blasio came into office in January 2014, the American Civil Liberties Union of New York found that while young Black and Latinx males, ages 14-24, made up only five percent of the city’s population, they accounted for 38 percent of stops and were found to be innocent 80 percent of the time.   

"We went through this battle with stop-and-frisk, of the disproportionate enforcement and over-criminalizing of our communities,” Melissa Mark-Viverito, former New York City council speaker and current congressional candidate, told Newsweek. “It’s a mentality that continues to permeate, but unfortunately, it doesn’t surprise me."

Along with Williams, more than 50 enraged New Yorkers took to the streets yesterday (May 11) to protest at police headquarters, WPIX reported. In response, de Blasio reportedly said, “We’re going to use the NYPD to the fullest, but with smart protocols, smart training, figuring out what works and doesn’t work.” For now, de Blasio said in a press conference, that includes doubling the city’s civilian social distancing ambassadors from 1,000 to 2,300.