On Monday, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio took to the podium and expressed his condolences and deep sadness over Saturday’s fatal shootings of two NYPD officers, and then he made a surprising request: that all protests stop until the officers are laid to rest, which may be several weeks. It was a bold, but ultimately misguided move, and it’s already backfiring. Almost immediately, protesters vowed to continue demonstrating, re-affirming their intention to “shut down 5th Avenue” tonight.
Tensions between the NYPD and the people of New York City have rarely been higher. Since grand juries opted not to indict officers involved in the deaths of Michael Brown in Ferguson and Eric Garner in New York, thousands of Americans around the country have taken to the streets, protesting what they see as aggressive and racially biased policing. On Sunday, a lone gunman shot and killed two NYPD officers sitting in their patrol car. De Blasio, NYC’s liberal mayor, who campaigned on a platform of police reform, is caught in the center of the storm.
Speaking at the Police Athletic League luncheon, Mayor de Blasio said that continuing to protest shows a lack of respect for the fallen officers. “Let’s accompany these families on their difficult journey,” he said. “Let’s see them through the funerals, then debate can begin again.” The mayor stood next to Police Commissioner Bill Bratton.
In a written statement, protesters took issue with the mayor’s connecting demonstrations with this weekend’s tragedy. “Representatives of police unions are taking advantage of and seizing upon the actions of a lone, troubled individual who shot his ex-girlfriend and then killed two police officers in Brooklyn to smear, discredit, and end the broad social movement that has demanded accountability, an end to police misconduct and police violence.” They also affirm that the right of free speech and free assembly is not granted by the mayor, and cannot be taken away by him.
Tonight’s protest is scheduled to begin at 5 p.m EST. The funeral service for slain officer Rafael Ramos will take place this Saturday, December 28, in New York City. The family of officer Wenjian Liu, the second man killed, is still making arrangements.