‘Our 1st obligation is to respect these families’: Mayor says now is a time for mourning, not protesting

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NEW YORK (PIX11) -- Assuring that the grieving families of the slain police officers are "our family," a somber Mayor Bill de Blasio Monday told an influential Police Athletic League luncheon crowd that now is not the time to protest the Garner grand jury verdict, but a moment to mourn and bury the officers killed in the line of duty and seek to move forward together.

"Our first obligation is to respect these families in mourning," de Blasio said at the event, which was a key test for the mayor's fractured relationship with the NYPD. "We will never forget the sacrifice of Officer Ramos and Officer Liu.  An attack on them is an attack on all of us."

The speech was an important one for the mayor, and at least initially appeared to go well, with de Blasio receiving a standing ovation.

"It's important that regardless of people's viewpoints, it's a time to step back and respect these families,"  said the mayor, who said he had just visited the families of officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos. The mayor had received backlash for not visiting the families of the dead sooner.

The mayor said now is not the time to protest politically and racially charged decisions in the police-involved deaths of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo. and Eric Garner on Staten Island, a debate that de Blasio has been at the center of after he said that he has warned his own biracial son, Dante, to be careful around police. Even Police Commissioner Bill Bratton, who attended de Blasio's speech, has said the mayor has lost the trust of "some officers."

A view has taken hold among police unions and rank and file that de Blasio had thrown police "under the bus," a simmering political problem for the mayor that exploded into international view Saturday night when police turned their backs on him as he arrived at a news conference at Woodhull Hospital, the medical center that had treated the slain police officers.

Patrolman's Benevolent Association President Patrick Lynch attacked the  mayor in comments Saturday night, saying there was "blood on many hands," including the mayor's.

D Blasio said Monday afternoon: "There's so much that we have to understand that we still don't in our public discourse about what our officers do everyday."

The mayor tried to sound a hopeful note -- "slowly but surely we move forward," he said -- and sought to put the tensions between the community and the police into a broader historic context.

"We will find a way to come together. We have before under very trying circumstances."

"We wonder if the light will come back, but it does come back. It is our job to help it come back," he said.