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New York Governor Counters President's 'Photo Op,' Cites Bible Passages

ALBANY, NY (WSKG) - There were fewer incidences of looting of stores and other businesses around the state on Tuesday night, after three nights that left many stores damaged and empty of merchandise.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo, in his daily briefing Wednesday, credited better efforts by the police, and walked back some critical comments he made Tuesday about the NYPD.

Cuomo also read from the Bible to make a point about President Donald Trump's controversial photo opportunity on Monday.

Cuomo criticized the New York Police Department and New York City’s Mayor Bill de Blasio after the looting of numerous stores in the Bronx and in some of Manhattan’s prime shopping districts on Saturday, Sunday and Monday nights, saying they did not do their jobs.

The comments set off angry responses from the mayor’s spokesperson, NYPD leaders and the police union, saying the criticisms dishonored the force.  The  governor later called the police commissioner, Dermot Shea, to apologize.

“My issue was with the management and deployment, “ Cuomo said. “(It was) never about the police officers.”

The governor says some of his childhood friends from Queens became police officers, and he has always respected the police.

But the governor also appeared to justify some of his previous comments, saying the discussion led to better deployment of police to limit looting.

“We got results. Last night was a much, much better night than the night before,” Cuomo said.

Cuomo also credits the imposition of the 8 p.m. curfew for a reduction in crime overnight. Tens of thousands continue to protest peacefully after George Floyd, an African American man from Minneapolis, died May 25 after an officer placed him in a chokehold for several minutes.  The officer has now been charged with second-degree murder. Three other officers  at the scene were charged on Wednesday with aiding and abetting second-degree murder.

The governor also delivered a response to Trump’s controversial photo opportunity on Monday, where military police cleared a peaceful demonstration in a park outside the White House grounds so that the president could walk to a nearby church, where he posed for pictures holding up an unopened Bible.

Cuomo brought his own Bible to the briefing, and read passages that he believes are relevant to the combined crisis of the coronavirus, the death of African Americans during police encounters, and the massive, largely peaceful protests taking place across the country.

“Here in New York, we actually read the Bible,” said Cuomo, who quoted from Matthew 5:9: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.”

Cuomo also quoted from Mark 3:25, a phrase used by President Abraham Lincoln -- “If a house be divided against itself, that house cannot stand” -- and from Romans 12:21 -- “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

Cuomo confirmed that he refused to send New York’s National Guard troops to the White House when the president requested them earlier in the week to help quell protests. The governor said he does not believe governments should use “active military for political purposes.”

He said he also disagrees with the president’s action to call up federal troops from Fort Drum, near Watertown, to deploy them to the nation’s Capitol.