Photo: MGN Online.
Photo: MGN Online.
Created: May 30, 2020 12:11 PM
NEW YORK (AP) - New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio promised Saturday that both protesters and police officers will be held accountable for acts of violence at a demonstration in Brooklyn that descended into chaos, and left people bloodied and vehicles burned.
The protest, one of many around the country over the killing of George Floyd by a police officer in Minnesota, started peacefully in the late afternoon in Manhattan, but problems flared after several thousand people faced off with a force of officers on the streets around a sports arena.
Speaking the morning after the protest, de Blasio, a Democrat, expressed solidarity with demonstrators upset about police brutality, but said there will be a full review of what went wrong.
He said he was upset by videos of the confrontations “where protesters were handled very violently” by police and by reports that at least two elected officials were among the people sprayed with irritating chemicals by officers at the scene.
“That’s unacceptable, and we need to understand exactly why that happened,” the mayor said.
But he also said some protesters had come “with an agenda of violence and incitement, and they meant to harm police officers, and they did harm police officers.”
Many people in the crowd threw bottles at police. A mob set fire to a police van and battered several other police cruisers with clubs.
One demonstrator was charged with attempted murder for allegedly tossing a homemade firebomb at a vehicle occupied by several officers, who escaped without harm.
“They were subjected to horrible, vile things last night,” de Blasio said of the police.
Police Commissioner Dermot Shea said more than 200 people were arrested and multiple officers were injured, including one who lost a tooth.
Asked to comment on videos that showed officers shoving peaceful protesters to the ground and hitting people with batons, Shea said those acts would be investigated.
But, he said, “It is very hard to practice de-escalation when there is a brick being thrown at your head.”
“It is by the grace of God that we don’t have dead officers today,” he said.
The demonstrations were held in defiance of a ban on gatherings, imposed to stop the spread of the coronavirus, which has killed thousands of New Yorkers including dozens of members of the NYPD.
More protests were planned Saturday afternoon. De Blasio and Shea said police were working to develop a strategy for keeping them peaceful.
Floyd died Monday after the officer pressed his knee into Floyd’s neck for several minutes even after he stopped moving and pleading for air.
(Copyright 2020 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)