It's been nearly two months since a Staten Island grand jury returned a non-indictment of NYPD officer Daniel Pantaleo, the man who's sidewalk chokehold of 43-year-old Eric Garner induced a fatal heart attack, and inflamed a community to impassioned protest. Since then, New York City has gone through a lot of tumult, with some in the NYPD subsequently blaming the murders of two officers, Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu, on both the Garner protests, and Mayor Bill de Blasio. Now, the mayor is hitting back — de Blasio called the NYPD's memorial protests "inappropriate," finally weighing in on the controversy that's been embroiling the city.
For the uninitiated, here's what basically happened. After the Pantaleo non-indictment, and amid the pulsing Black Lives Matter protests that swarmed through the city, de Blasio spoke honestly and movingly about his concerns as the white parent of mixed-race children, in particular his teenage son, Dante. He described having to talk with Dante about how to deal with the police, so to avoid the undue suspicions and confrontations that have historically befallen young black men at the hands of law enforcement. But after the murders of officers Liu and Ramos, the NYPD responded with a fair amount of fury, accusing de Blasio of fostering an anti-police attitude through his remarks.
The tone of things got red-hot pretty quickly. Pat Lynch, head of the of the Patrolman's Benevolent Association, went so far as to say that de Blasio had blood on his hands, a remark which predictably inflamed the controversy even further. All the hostility ultimately culminated in a jarring, pretty upsetting scene when the time came for Liu and Ramos' respective memorials — on both occasions, throngs of NYPD officers turned their back when it was de Blasio's turn to speak. It was an act of protest (and an act of defiance, as NYPD commissioner Bill Bratton had urged against it) that de Blasio had largely stayed silent on.
Until Saturday, that is. Speaking to the AP, de Blasio finally gave his take on the show of disrespect, calling it "really inappropriate."
I think the public cared that City Hall stepped back from the debate and respected the families. Some others didn't. ... I didn't understand how vile some of the language was. I wish I had understood better because there's no question in my mind it was unacceptable behavior even if Constitutionally protected.
Indeed, the overreach of some in the NYPD definitely registered with people, and not in their favor — polling from mid-January confirmed that citizens of New York City were overwhelmingly unhappy with the protests, with nearly 70 percent objecting to the department's conduct, cementing this entire episode as a rather profound bungle.
De Blasio, however, doesn't seem to be necessarily holding grudges. He also offered that he thought conditions between his administration and the NYPD were on the mend, saying "I do believe things are much better. I believe the dialogue is moving forward." Here's hoping that he's right — in America's biggest city, a police department and mayor's office on the same page would be a fantastic improvement.
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