Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge
A pair of alarming videos appeared to show at least one Caviar delivery worker being arrested by New York City police on Thursday, allegedly for violating the city’s curfew imposed this week in response to demonstrations protesting the death of George Floyd and systemic police brutality.
But the worker and other on-demand food delivery app contractors are permitted to work in the city, even past curfew, based on a designation as essential workers by city officials. Caviar parent company DoorDash tells The Verge it is “alarmed” by the reports of the arrests and that it is “prepared to provide them with our support.”
“We are alarmed by reports that a courier appears to have been arrested this evening in New York City shortly after curfew. Under the City’s curfew order, food delivery workers are deemed ‘essential’ and permitted to travel to and from work and to be in public while performing their work while the curfew is in effect,” a DoorDash spokesperson says. “We are gathering information and are in contact with City officials to determine what transpired. Essential workers must be able to complete their work and feel safe and secure while doing so, and we are prepared to provide them with our support.”
In one video, a Caviar delivery worker is seen getting arrested by a group of police officers near Central Park, allegedly 27 minutes after the 8PM ET curfew, according to a video shared on Twitter this evening.
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
city and state officials assured essential workers they are exempt
at least three white shirts (commanding officers) are present pic.twitter.com/92aI7UdODU
— peter hess (@PeterNHess) June 5, 2020
In a separate video shared on Twitter just minutes before at 9:01PM ET, a Caviar worker is seen getting arrested by a group of at least six officers. “Are you serious? Look, look, look, look. I’m not even doing anything,” the man says, showing clear distress as the cops handcuff him and confiscate his bike and orange Caviar bag. “It tells me on the app I can show you guys something.”
It was initially unclear if this was the same worker or a separate incident altogether. But statements from city officials suggest it was one incident involving a single Caviar worker captured on video from different angles and featuring different moments of the arrest.
This delivery guy thought he’s an essential worker, police seemed to disagree. The rules issued before the curfew very unclear but according to the state, restaurants, bar & food industry workers are classified as essential. #nycurfew #NYCPolice pic.twitter.com/OyZVuDkPuM
— Kirsti Karttunen (@KirstiKarttunen) June 5, 2020
A spokesperson for the New York City Police Department tells The Verge that “police detained the male, verified his credentials and he was released.”
Major US cities began imposing curfews earlier this week in an attempt to curb protests, many of which are peaceful demonstrations against police brutality and racism. Yet countless videos over the past few days have shown widespread examples of police violence and inhumane treatment of demonstrators in response, including beatings, use of tear gas and other irritants, and “kettling” of protestors into tight areas, including the NYPD’s decision to trap thousands on the Manhattan Bridge on Tuesday night.
On-demand delivery workers are now caught between the protests and law enforcement, as on-demand apps like Caviar, DoorDash, and Uber Eats informed them that they could continue taking orders as essential workers in certain cities despite the curfew. In some locations, like San Francisco and Washington, DC, Uber and other apps ceased operations during curfew hours. But in New York City, the apps assured their contractors, many of whom rely on the apps for income during the pandemic and yet receive no other form of financial assistance, they could continue working.
“Our teams on the ground are working closely with cities on how to best support them based on their needs and the local situation,” an Uber spokesperson told BuzzFeed News earlier this week regarding its inconsistent approach to city curfews. “Some cities have requested that we suspend operations during curfew hours while others want to ensure Uber is available for essential services.”
DoorDash told BuzzFeed it was “tailoring operations based on the guidance we have received from governments,” seemingly indicating the company was told by New York City officials it could keep its workers on the streets. A note posted to competing service Postmates’ website tells New York City customers it is “safe to order delivery during curfew hours”:
The safety and well-being of our community is our top priority. We are actively working with local officials to monitor the situation in your city. While it is safe to order delivery during curfew hours, please note that activity in your area may impact restaurant availability and delivery times. We will work as quickly and safely as possible to complete your order. We appreciate your loyalty, patience, and understanding for the duration of these regulations.
Later in the evening, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio acknowledged the arrest on Twitter, writing, “Just got off the phone with [New York City Police Commissioner Dermot Shae] after seeing the troubling video of a delivery worker arrested by police while doing his job. This is NOT acceptable and must stop. Food delivery is essential work and is EXEMPTED from the curfew.”
De Blasio also said journalists covering protests were also essential workers. “We WILL protect their rights,” he wrote. “The public depends on the information they provide. Will get NYPD to fix this immediately.”
Same goes for journalists covering protests and out doing their jobs. They are essential workers, too. We WILL protect their rights. The public depends on the information they provide. Will get NYPD to fix this immediately.
— Mayor Bill de Blasio (@NYCMayor) June 5, 2020
Update June 5th, 12:20AM ET: Clarified that it’s currently unclear whether the two viral videos show one worker getting arrested or two separate incidents.
Update June 5th, 12:25AM ET: Added comment from New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and the New York City Police Department.