Gov. Andrew Cuomo said tonight he has “no reason to second guess” the NYPD following the controversial arrests of more than 140 anti-police brutality protesters.
The protesters, marching yesterday to denounce the death of a Baltimore man in police custody, clashed repeatedly with police in Manhattan. Activists and elected officials accused the NYPD of unnecessarily cracking down on peaceful marchers, breaking from the more restrained approach they took to protests last year.
But Mr. Cuomo, like Mayor Bill de Blasio today, offered a full-throated defense of the police.
“I have no reason to second guess the police on the job they did. These are very difficult situations here in New York, these are difficult situations nationwide,” Mr. Cuomo told the Observer after delivering a speech at a Brooklyn Democratic Party dinner. “So I believe our police department is probably one of the best in the country dealing with it so I have no reason to second guess their behavior.”
State Senator Gustavo Rivera and Assemblyman Michael Blake, two Bronx Democrats, accused police of “indiscriminately” shoving and arresting peaceful activists. Mr. Blake, along with liberal groups like the National Action Network and New York Communities for Change, said police “brutalized” protesters. In a statement tonight, Brooklyn Councilman Jumaane Williams said reports of police aggression “extremely disturbed” him.
But in a testy defense of police earlier today, Mr. de Blasio said protesters in Union Square simply didn’t heed the direction of police to not enter roadways. Police Commissioner Bill Bratton indicated today that the NYPD would have less tolerance for protesters blocking traffic on major thoroughfares, a departure from the approach to marches that shut down bridges and highways last December.
Mr. de Blasio, who has strained to strike a balance between backing his more conservative police commissioner and appeasing grassroots progressives who helped elect him two years ago, said his police department had been enforcing a consistent standard.
“The tactical reality we have to acknowledge is when we think there is potential for specific violence, it’s important to not let that happen,” Mr. de Blasio said. “The strategic approach is exactly the same. We’re gonna respect nonviolent protest and we’re gonna accommodate it in all types of flexible ways.”