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NY Politics
Mayor Meets Protesters, but Police Conduct Protests Go On
From the Wall Street Journal of Fri, 19 Dec 2014 21:18:47 EST
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, after meeting with protest organizers on Friday.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, after meeting with protest organizers on Friday. Keith Bedford for The Wall Street Journal

Seeking to calm protests calling for wholesale changes to law-enforcement policies, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio met with some of the movement’s organizers on Friday, praising them as part of the democratic process while again rejecting violence against police.

Mr. de Blasio and a small group of organizers gathered privately at the Midtown headquarters of 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East, a labor union, for about an hour.

Afterward, the mayor described the organizers as “activists who want to heal, who want to bring police and the community together, who want to ensure there’s fairness.”

The organizers called the meeting “productive” but said demonstrations would continue. A silent march is set for Sunday evening in Harlem.

“One meeting will not end decades of discriminatory police practices and therefore we will continue to be on the streets,” the Justice League NYC, the group that requested the meeting, said in a news release Friday afternoon.

Protests have taken place since the Dec. 3 grand jury decision not to indict an officer in the death of Eric Garner, a 43-year-old Staten Island man who died in July shortly after being placed in an apparent police chokehold. Mr. Garner was unarmed but police said he was resisting arrest for allegedly selling untaxed cigarettes.

Later Friday, Mr. de Blasio appeared at a New York Police Department promotions ceremony at police headquarters in Manhattan, telling officers the city was experiencing a difficult moment. He said the NYPD had used restraint with protests.

“The eyes of the nation, in fact the eyes of the world, have been on this department and the result is the respect for the NYPD has grown and you have upheld the best traditions of our democracy,” the mayor said.

Police Commissioner William Bratton described the protests against the backdrop of “societal change...focused on us.”

“It’s also not just about us,” he said. “It’s about our society, it’s about poverty, it’s about race, it’s about poor housing.”

Mr. de Blasio’s meeting with protesters and his appearance at the promotions ceremony sent messages to two sides that have been pressuring him.

While protesters have demanded law-enforcement changes, police unions have accused the mayor of not defending them as they take on the dangerous job of maintaining order.

Though the demonstrations have been overwhelmingly nonviolent, two police officers were kicked and punched last Saturday on the Brooklyn Bridge during a protest. Police have identified eight people who allegedly were involved in the attack.

Pro-NYPD demonstrators appeared Friday outside City Hall, with about 50 gathering for what was billed as a “thank you” rally for the police. The event drew about 50 counter protesters and resulted in shouting matches but no violence.

Mr. de Blasio’s meeting with protesters came as police were conducting a search warrant in Brooklyn that led to a third arrest in connection with attacks on the two officers. The charges against the man were pending.

After meeting the protesters, Mr. de Blasio said there was “real unity” on denouncing violence against police officers.

“I made very clear that we cannot accept any violence against our police officers,” Mr. de Blasio said. “And they were quick to affirm that.”

Organizers wouldn’t give details of the demands they gave the mayor, but the Justice League has publicly called for the firing of Officer Daniel Pantaleo, the officer involved in Mr. Garner’s death; a special prosecutor for police-involved deaths; and an immediate end to the so-called broken windows policing, among other issues.

Broken windows targets minor infractions as a way to prevent more serious crime. Critics have said it disproportionately targets black and Latino men, while supporters have pointed to large drops in crime in New York and other places where broken windows is practiced.

Mr. de Blasio has said he supports broken windows, and Mr. Bratton is one of its leading proponents.

Carmen Perez, the Justice League’s executive director, emerged from the union headquarters about 12:30 p.m. Friday, her arms linked with other organizers.

Ms. Perez said she appreciated Mr. de Blasio’s time but looked forward to “a more substantive response from the mayor and his staff.”

Organizers had requested a meeting with Mr. Bratton, Ms. Perez added. The commissioner said Friday he hadn’t heard of the request but would consider it.

Mr. de Blasio said it wasn’t long ago that protests couldn’t be organized in an orderly way in New York City, though he wasn’t specific.

Former Mayor Rudy Giuliani disagreed on Friday, saying protesters could organize demonstrations when he was in office—just not take over the streets.

“[Protesters] should not be given the run of the city,” the two-term Republican said. “The rules have got to be clear, and the mayor’s got to make them clear—there’s a line, you don’t cross it.”

Mr. Giuliani didn’t criticize either the mayor or the commissioner by name.

A de Blasio spokesman declined to comment.

—Sonja Sharp contributed to this article.

Write to Mara Gay at mara.gay@wsj.com and Pervaiz Shallwani at pervaiz.shallwani@wsj.com



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