Amid concerns voiced by local legislators and restaurants earlier this week about protections for essential workers during NYC’s hastily-announced curfew, police arrested a delivery courier in NYC who was performing job duties during curfew hours.
A video posted on social media of the arrest shows at least six officers surrounding the delivery worker with a Caviar bag and putting him in handcuffs while he shouts, “Are you serious? Look, look, look, look. I’m not even doing anything.” The worker tells the police officers that there is a message on the delivery service’s user app that he can show proving his status as an essential worker. The officers tell the worker to “calm down” and proceed with the arrest.
Another video appearing to show the same incident from a different angle was also posted online.
NYPD officers arrest an essential worker—his Caviar bag is sitting by his bike, 27 min after curfew at 108 and Central Park West in Manhattan— peter hess (@PeterNHess) June 5, 2020
city and state officials assured essential workers they are exempt
at least three white shirts (commanding officers) are present pic.twitter.com/92aI7UdODU
Caviar posted a statement on Twitter hours after the video started circulating online, saying that the company was “alarmed” by the news of the arrest. “Food delivery workers are essential, exempt from curfew, and must be able to safely do their work,” the company said in the statement. “We’re gathering info and are in touch with City officials.”
The delivery service later confirmed to Eater that the courier was doing deliveries for Caviar during the time that the incident took place.
Mayor Bill de Blasio said on Twitter that he spoke with NYC Police Commissioner Dermot Shea about the incident after watching the video of the arrest. “This is NOT acceptable and must stop,” de Blasio said. “Food delivery is essential work and is EXEMPTED from the curfew.”
A spokesperson for the NYPD told the Verge that the worker was released later after his “credentials were verified.”
After nights of demonstrations protesting police brutality, the mayor and governor announced the curfew on Monday afternoon for 11 p.m., intended as a measure to prevent property damage and looting. The next day, they brought it down to 8 p.m. and extended to the end of the week.
But the suddenness of the announcement — and lack of clarity around who it applied to, and how food workers could identify as essential — sparked confusion for many in the restaurant industry, particularly delivery workers whose job requires being outside. The mayor’s guidelines noted that food workers only needed to self-identify as essential to avoid arrest.
Many restaurateurs already predicted that the curfew may put their staffers in danger. Though government officials tout curfews as a crime prevention tool, critics of curfews say that they tend to be enforced unevenly and exacerbate tensions between communities of color and police. People of color and undocumented immigrants represent a significant part of the restaurant industry workforce, and many restaurants chose to close this week or end service early in hopes of giving staff ample time to commute home before curfew.
The demonstrations across New York City have largely been peaceful, but as the week has progressed, more and more photos and videos have surfaced displaying police force that protestors have said were unwarranted.
Update, 1:45 p.m.: This story has been updated with further information from Caviar.