The organizers of an anti-violence prayer march said that Blue Lives Matter activists, including some NYPD officers, "hijacked" their pro-reform march on Wednesday — leaving the marchers confused and guilt-ridden as cops cracked down on anti-police counter-protesters.

The march across the Brooklyn Bridge to City Hall was initially conceived by a coalition of Black clergy leaders as a community-focused Christian unity event. The flyer called for reforms to policing, health care and education, and included no mention of an NYPD presence.

But after the Sergeants Benevolent Association distributed a separate flyer for the event — describing it as a rally to "support law enforcement," as well as clergy — hundreds of current and former NYPD officers showed up, sporting matching blue t-shirts, waving Thin Blue Line flags, and holding signs in support of police funding.

Flyers for the same event distributed by Black clergy (left) and an NYPD union (right)

Flyers for the same event distributed by Black clergy (left) and an NYPD union (right)

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Flyers for the same event distributed by Black clergy (left) and an NYPD union (right)

"When I seen the Blue Lives Matter flag I’m like, what is going on? This is not what it’s about," recalled Tramell Thompson, the leader of Progressive Action, which helped organize the event with the United Clergy Coalition. "If police officers are men and women of God, there’s nothing wrong with that. But to bring 'Blue Lives Matter' to a church event, I think it took away from the message."

He said he later realized that "the NYPD co-opted" the prayer march to make it appear they had the community's support. "If you look at their flyer, they have none of our agenda items on it," he added. "It’s like they hijacked our march."

The SBA's promotion of the event drew counter-protesters from Occupy City Hall, who linked arms on the roadway of the Brooklyn Bridge just as demonstrators were preparing to march.

At the direction of Sergeant Arthur Smarsch — himself an SBA board member and participant in the march across the Brooklyn Bridge — NYPD officers charged at the group, demanding they disperse and arresting them as they walked backwards.

Thirty-six people were arrested and three police officers were injured, according to an NYPD spokesperson. Video shows an individual on the pedestrian portion of the bridge striking three officers in the head as they arrested another man on the roadway.

A spokesperson for the NYPD would not share the extent of the injuries or the charges of those arrested. Chief of Department Terence Monahan reportedly suffered a finger sprain during the arrest operation.

As with other recent Blue Lives Matter events, NYPD officers seemed to blur the line between policing and supporting the demonstration.

Uniformed officers were seen snapping photos and high-fiving pro-police marchers. NYPD Chief Judith Harrison, who was recently promoted to commander of Brooklyn North, spoke at a subsequent rally, where she denounced the Black Lives Matter counter-protesters.

"Do you know why they didn’t stop us?" Harrison said, referring to the counter-protesters. "Because of the power of prayer.”

The NYPD did not respond to questions about whether Harrison's speech violated the department's restrictions on participating in a protest while in uniform or publicly expressing a personal opinion without the permission of the police commissioner.

Multiple Black marchers told Gothamist they were disappointed by the NYPD's presence at the event. "You know, they got a point," said one woman, as Black Lives Matter activists asked the group why they were supporting cops. "We didn't know this was going to happen. To me, it feels like a bait and switch."

"This march for me was under the guise of Christianity," said Alicia, a 25-year-old Bronx school teacher who declined to give her last name. "I believe in divesting from police."

SBA President Ed Mullins, who has a history of sharing racist and misleading content, insisted the flyers were not misdirection and that police and Black clergy were natural allies.

"This is a community that respects the police and wants peace," he told Gothamist. "Police are the dividing line to keep them safe."

The Black Lives Matter counter-protesters, he added, were the ones who should not be trusted.

"Those are antagonists," Mullins said. "Those are not people who care about the city. They're people who have an agenda."