NEW YORK -- After a news conference by LGBTQ activists critical of Mount Sinai Hospital's relationship with a religious organization during the coronavirus pandemic, the city's police commissioner and the mayor said "protests" would not be tolerated.
About a dozen activists with the Reclaim Pride organization took to First Avenue in Manhattan outside the hospital to hold a news conference Sunday, May 3, slamming Samaritan's Purse for being allowed to set up a field hospital.
About two dozen police officers showed up and forced the crowd to disperse. Reporters, who were allow told to leave, said social distancing rules were being followed at the event.
NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea was asked Monday about the move and if it infringed on Americans' freedom of speech and freedom to protest.
"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," said NYPD Commission Dermot Shea. "But now comes the bad news. We're in a pandemic, and executive orders have been issued. These are laws that have been passed down through executive order to keep people alive. While we greatly, greatly respect the right of people to protest, there should not be protests taking place in the middle of a pandemic by gathering outside and putting people at risk."
At the end of March, a 68-bed field hospital was built in Central Park by Rev. Franklin Graham’s Samaritan Purse Christian organization. Its purpose was to treat dozens of coronavirus patients and ease the crowding at Mount Sinai.
Activists questioned how and why the organization was allowed to work in a city that supports LGBTQ rights.
"People who want to make their voices heard -- there are plenty of ways to do it without gathering in person," added de Blasio. "The question is always whoever has whatever cause they want to speak to, are they interested in protecting other people's lives? If they are, use all the other tools you have to get your point across, but avoid anything that might put other people in harm's way."