Bill de Blasio Defends Al Sharpton on Dante Chokehold Remark

A scene from Bill de Blasio's first campaign ad.

A scene from Bill de Blasio’s first campaign ad.

Rev. Al Sharpton turned plenty of heads — and landed on the cover of the city’s tabloids — after he invoked Mayor Bill de Blasio’s teenage son Dante as a candidate for an NYPD chokehold yesterday. But it didn’t seem to bother Dante’s dad.

“I think he has a right to offer any example he wants,” Mr. de Blasio said of Mr. Sharpton’s comments today.

Mr. Sharpton, who has maintained that chokeholds like the one used on Eric Garner are used disproportionately on people of color, made the remark about the mayor’s 16-year-old son at a City Hall roundtable Friday.

“Given the data that we are seeing in terms of these broken window kind of operations, it’s disproportionate in the black and Latino communities. If Dante wasn’t your son, he would be a candidate for a chokehold,” Mr. Sharpton, turning to Mr. de Blasio, said in his opening remark.

Asked about Mr. Sharpton’s comments today, Mr. de Blasio sought to shift to “the larger issue,” which he said is the need to totally remove chokeholds from policing in all but the most unusual cases. The maneuver has been banned in the NYPD patrol guide for more than 30 years.

When a reporter pressed him on whether it was inappropriate for Mr. Sharpton to mention his son, the mayor quickly moved on to the next question.

The mayor did say that he and his son — who starred in a popular mayoral campaign ad — had discussed Mr. Sharpton’s comment.

“Dante is a very sophisticated young man and very knowledgeable so, yes, of course I told him what happened,” Mr. de Blasio said. “And I think his broad view is, you know, he understands he happens to be in the public eye. It doesn’t really affect him much. He has his own life, he has his own approach, it’s nothing particularly new to him.”

He continued about the Brooklyn Technical High School junior: “I wish I could interpret how unusual the situation is — Dante is someone who is really, very, very mature and he’s aware of it, and to him it’s just another day in this work we do.”

Mr. de Blasio said he didn’t agree with Mr. Sharpton on everything, but lauded him as someone who has been “respectful” and said they had a “productive relationship.”

“I worked with him for years. We are New Yorkers, we all have strong opinions, we all don’t have to agree on everything — but Rev. Sharpton clearly has pointed always in a direction of peaceful protest and the use of democratic process to make change, and I give him credit for that,” Mr. de Blasio said.

And while many advocates have taken aim at the “broken windows” style of policing — cracking down on quality of life crimes like selling loose cigarettes, which Mr. Garner was accused of — painting it as the new stop and frisk, Mr. de Blasio defended Police Commissioner Bill Bratton’s signature philosophy.

“I think the core philosophy is very sound, and I’d urge everyone to express it in its totality. Broken windows, as a strategy along with CompStat, is one of the reasons why in the last 20 years we became the safest city in America,” Mr. de Blasio said. “If someone says, are there specific things we want to constantly try and do better, are there trends we might want to address in a particular manner, of course. We do that every day.”