BROOKLYN — New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio was steadfast in his defense of the NYPD and ordered protesters to go home after a Saturday that saw some peaceful protesting across the city, but notable incidents of confrontations between demonstrators and officers.
The mayor spoke Saturday night in Brooklyn, clearly frustrated with what had taken place.
“We respect all peaceful protest but now it is time to go home,” de Blasio said. “You have been heard and change is coming in this city, I have no doubt about that.
He had no patience for those who had, in his words, engaged in negative behavior toward police, including reports of police vehicles set on fire.
“Those who are out there simply to create violence, to commit acts of violence against our police, we won’t tolerate that,” he said, adding that “It’s been a very difficult day for our officers.”
De Blasio joined in with many politicians blaming outsiders and people not from the communities in which protests took place for the violence.
“Many cases are from outside their community and creating negativity and violence,” he said, noting that community leaders had spoken of seeing unfamiliar faces.
He also defended an incident that went viral Saturday where a police SUV was seen driving into a group of protesters.
“I’ve seen that video and obviously heard about many other incidents,” he said. “It’s inappropriate for protesters to surround a police vehicle… people don’t do that, I’ve been watching protests for decades. There’s a different element here trying to damage police officers and their vehicles.”
“I wish the officers hadn’t done that, but they didn’t start the situation,” he added. “Everyday people don’t do this to police officers.”
Over 50 protesters demonstrating against the murder of Minneapolis man George Floyd were arrested across New York City on Saturday night, an NYPD spokesperson told PIX11 News.
Protests were still going on Saturday night all across the city. Lanes of the FDR Drive, Manhattan Bridge and Brooklyn Bridge were all closed Saturday night due to protests.
Demonstrations have been taking place across the country this week in the wake of Floyd’s death, as tensions boil over between police and communities of color.
Floyd, who is black, died on Memorial Day after a white police officer knelt on his neck for nearly 9 minutes during his arrest, which was caught on bystander video. Floyd is heard in the video repeatedly asking for help, saying he can’t breathe.
“I can’t breathe” were the last words of Eric Garner, who died in police custody on Staten Island in 2014. Garner’s death is widely considered one of the touchstones of the current Black Lives Matter movement.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo said on Saturday he will ask New York Attorney General Letitia James to investigate the police-protester clashes that took place in Brooklyn on Friday.
More than 200 people were arrested and dozens of officers were injured, according to NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea, who welcomed the independent review.