Mayor Bill de Blasio continues to walk a very fine line in his response to the shooting of two police officers this weekend, and his attempt today to smooth relations with the NYPD may have alienated civil rights advocates. At a luncheon for supporters of the Police Athletic League on Monday afternoon, de Blasio urged people to halt the ongoing protests over the recent deaths of unarmed black men at the hands of police, saying now is the time to honor the two slain officers. “It’s time for everyone to put aside political debates, put aside protests, put aside all of the things that we will talk about in due time,” de Blasio said. “That can be for another day.”
Instead, the mayor said New Yorkers need to support the grieving families of officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos, whom he and his wife visited earlier in the day. “Our first obligation is to respect these families,” he said. “Our first obligation is to stand by them in every way we can. And I call upon everyone to focus on these families in these next days.” De Blasio added, “Let’s see them through the funerals, then debate can begin again.”
The mayor also reiterated comments he made during the initial press conference on the shooting, calling on people to immediately report any threat made against police. “We have to understand that the attack on them is an attack on all of us,” he said.
NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton admitted this morning that “some officers” in the department have lost confidence in the mayor, which is hard to deny after a number of officers turned their backs on de Blasio as he visited the hospital where the officers were treated, and Police Benevolent Association President Pat Lynch declared the mayor has blood on his hands.
It’s unclear whether de Blasio’s comments swayed any police officers to his side, but some civil-rights advocates are already objecting to his call to postpone demonstrations. Pastor Calvin Butts of New York’s Abyssinian Baptist Church told CNN that he “wasn’t moved” by the mayor’s remarks today. “To say we ought to stop protesting really does not touch on the fact that not only are the families of the police officers grieving, the family of Eric Garner is grieving,” Butts said. “The protests are a separate matter from this heinous crime that’s been committed against these New York City police officers.” As DNAinfo notes, a planned march to take over Fifth Avenue on Tuesday evening is still on, according to a Facebook page promoting the event.
While shooter Ismaaiyl Brinsley used the hashtags #RIPMikeBrown and #RIPEricGarner (though the latter was misspelled), there are no reports so far that he was actively involved in the demonstrations sparked by their deaths.
This post has been updated throughout.