Uproar when Bill de Blasio, NYPD commissioner declare protests won’t be tolerated amid shutdown

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New York City’s mayor and police commissioner think social distancing and coronavirus guidelines during the pandemic trump the constitutional rights of Americans. Mayor Bill de Blasio and NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea claimed this week that the First Amendment rights of free speech and assembly have to take a back seat to the executive orders issued in the efforts to stem the spread of COVID-19. The officials made it clear that no public protests or demonstrations would be allowed in New York City during a news briefing when the question came up about a news conference held by LGBTQ activists the day before. The Reclaim Pride group had gathered outside of Mount Sinai Hospital to protest its relationship with Samaritan Purse, the Christian organization that set up a field hospital at the hospital’s invitation to help serve an overflow of patients amid the pandemic. Dozens of police officers broke up the crowd which was reportedly following the social distancing rules. Shea was asked about the incident in light of the freedom of speech protest rights. “You’re talking about some of the values we hold in the highest regard in this country and certainly in this city, the right for people to gather, the right to free speech and the right to protest,” the police commissioner said.