Public Sector Alliance 3:04 p.m. | Dec. 17, 2014

Mayor: Protest organizers ‘must denounce’ anti-police violence

By Azi Paybarah

(AP Photo/John Minchillo)
Protesters block traffic on the Brooklyn Bridge.

Mayor Bill de Blasio and police union leader Pat Lynch agree on one thing, at least: Protest organizers have to denounce violence against police officers.

De Blasio is set to meet Friday with members of Justice League NYC, lead by former Al Sharpton aide Tamika Mallory, to discuss changes in policing and criminal justice protocol following the death of two unarmed black men at the hands of city police officers.

Asked today about the upcoming meeting, de Blasio told reporters, "I absolutely think they must denounce violence. I think everyone has to denounce violence."

He also said, "All protesters really have to take responsibility for the larger group they’re a part of."

Two police lieutenants were assaulted during a demonstration on the Brooklyn Bridge this past Saturday. One lieutenant suffered a broken nose. Police are looking for seven suspects and nine witnesses they say are linked to the attack.

De Blasio, speaking to reporters after an unrelated visit to Rikers Island, said, “You cannot talk about social change and then commit an act of violence against a police officer. It makes no sense. It denigrates the cause. It undermines the legitimacy. It’s illegal, it’s wrong, it’s immoral.”

Then the mayor reiterated a call he made last week for protesters to actively stop violence and cooperate with the police.

De Blasio said, "I would say this to any protest anywhere: Respect the police, listen to their instructions, work with them. If someone in your midst discusses the potential of attacking the police, you have to turn that person in. You have to help the police stop that. You have to work with the police, if you see somebody about to act, commit an act of violence —by the way, not just against the police, against anyone or against property—you have to stop it."

As for the meeting on Friday, de Blasio told reporters said he will listen to the Justice League's concerns but also "remind them of reforms” that City Hall is already implemented, including retraining for every officer and pushing for the use of body cameras.

The group wants an “end” to Broken Windows policing—the mayor strongly supports Broken Windows policing—and the “immediate” passage of the Right to Know Act, which the mayor so far has not endorsed.

The Right to Know Act would require police to leave a business card with people they stop if there is no arrest or summons, and to get proof of consent before searching someone when there is no warrant or reasonable suspicion that a crime is imminent.

Yesterday, Lynch, president of the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, said in a statement, “Mayor de Blasio should not meet with the Justice League NYC until they publicly denounce the individuals who assaulted police officers or who have attempted to incite violence during these protests.”

Earlier today, Russell Simmons, a hip-hop mogul who attended a Justice League press conference outside City Hall last week, wrote an op-ed that said, in part, "I will always denounce any and all acts of violence towards any human being or animal on this planet."

UPDATE: After publication, Mallory emailed to say the Justice League NYC participated, but was not the lead organizer of last week’s Millions March NYC. She also said her organization “certainly voiced immediately that we denounce violence against police office,” and forwarded a press release from the day after the march, saying the organization "condemns any and all forms of violence."

Michael Skolnik, Russell Simon's political director, subsequently told Capital he and many others associated with the league have loudly denounced the violence against police, including in appearances on MSNBC, Fox, and CNN.

In a brief interview, Skolnik said, "If I was on the bridge that night, I would have done everything in my power to stop it."

--additional reporting by Gloria Pazmino