With the new year just days away, perhaps Mayor de Blasio will resolve to show a little more respect for the men and women in blue who have made New York the safest big city in the world, and who have policed the virulent anti-police demonstrations in recent days with professionalism and restraint.
Those protestors who have crossed the line in calling for the outright killing of police officers and even assaulting the police should show similar restraint. But why would they, when the mayor himself issued a mealy-mouthed, lawyerly response to an assault on two police lieutenants during a demonstration on the Brooklyn Bridge?
The lieutenants were beaten when they tried to arrest an English professor who sought to hurl a garbage can at several officers. (The professor, Eric Linsker, no doubt will be lionized in the academy, perhaps with a conference named in his honor.) The mayor at first seemed to dismiss the “incident,” saying merely that a small number of protestors “allegedly assaulted some members of the NYPD.”
True, all suspects are entitled to the presumption of innocence. The assault on the two lieutenants is, in fact, alleged. But police officers rightly note that these legal niceties are rarely observed when a cop is accused of wrongdoing.
Thousands of New Yorkers clearly believe that somebody—a police officer—should have been indicted for the death of Eric Garner, the suspect who died while being placed in custody on Staten Island. They have every right to organize peaceful demonstrations to make their views heard.
But the right of assembly does not give demonstrators the right to disrupt traffic and commerce. Nor does it cover assaults on police officers. (The right to free speech, however, would seem to cover the demonstrators’ chants of “What do we want? Dead cops. When do we want them? Now.” What wonderful people.) It took the NYPD’s chief of department, James O’Neill, to state the obvious truth. Referring to the attacks, he said: “This is where we have to draw the line.”
But, frankly, the demonstrators have made it clear that they are willing to cross any line the NYPD cares to draw. The mayor needs to take command. He must tell the protestors that their behavior has become intolerable, and that they will be arrested and punished if they continue to defy the law.
Sorry—if they continue their alleged defiance of the law.
Mr. de Blasio needs to understand that the situation calls for a strong verbal statement of support for the officers who have managed the demonstrations with great skill and discretion. If need be, he has to make such a statement over and over again, until there can be little doubt where he stands. Any bit of ambivalence can, and will, be taken as just that, leaving demonstrators to conclude that the mayor is willing to tolerate law breaking and disorder.
And that surely is not the case. It can’t be.