As clashes between police and protesters in the wake of a fatal police shooting in Missouri make national headlines, Mayor Bill de Blasio said today he expects a Staten Island march in response to Eric Garner’s death in police custody to be peaceful this Saturday.
“I think the message is that we all want to work together to improve the relationship between police and community,” Mr. de Blasio said at an unrelated press conference when asked what he’d tell demonstrators. “There are real reforms and changes on the way, because we know that the best way to be safe and secure is to bring the police and community together.”
The march for Mr. Garner, who died as police tried to arrest him for selling cigarettes, will come as another fatal encounter between police and an unarmed black man — the shooting of Michael Brown, 18, by Ferguson, Missouri, police — has spurred violent clashes between police and demonstrators.
The local demonstration, planned by Rev. Al Sharpton and the National Action Network, initially stirred controversy for its original route — over the Verrazano Bridge, which has no walkway is Staten Island’s only land-based connection to the city. But amid mounting criticism, organizers ultimately decided to relocate the demonstration to Staten Island’s North Shore.
Mr. de Blasio said with the change in location — from the site of Mr. Garner’s death to the office of District Attorney Daniel Donovan — would render the demonstration “fairly limited in area.”
“I think the communication between the NYPD and the march organizers has been exceptional. It’s been constant. It’s been collegial,” Mr. de Blasio said.
While he urged for police and community to come together, the mayor acknowledged there have been “instances of excessive force” by police.
“They’re not something we accept, and we want to fix, and there are ways to fix them, and we will — including the retraining of the entire police force,” Mr. de Blasio said.
He also called for protesters to remain nonviolent.
“The way to express the desire for change is through peaceful means,” Mr. de Blasio said.
The mayor cited a silent march down Fifth Avenue in 2012 to call attention to stop-and-frisk, saying it was a decisive moment in crusade to reform the police procedure, which many, including Mr. de Blasio, argued unfairly targeted minorities.
“It was an absolutely peaceful demonstration that got it message out,” he said.
Mr. de Blasio said he did not have any specific information about whether the family of Mr. Brown, the teen shot in Missouri, would attend the march, though the Wall Street Journal reported they planned to do so if possible.
“There will be a lot of security provided for this march,” he said.
While demonstrations in New York have remained peaceful after Mr. Garner’s death in police custody, ruled a homicide, tensions between police and protesters in Ferguson have repeatedly flared into violence.
Police there have alleged some demonstrators have been looting and tossing Molotov cocktails, while demonstrators argue police have been using tear gas and arresting protestors and journalists unprovoked. After more violent clashes on Sunday night, Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon sent the National Guard to Ferguson this morning.