Mayor Bill de Blasio defended the NYPD's aggressive crackdown on a Black Lives Matter protest earlier in the week, implying — without evidence — that the marchers might mount an attack similar to the pro-Trump insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.

Appearing on the Brian Lehrer Show on Friday, the mayor was asked why the NYPD deployed a controversial anti-terror unit to break up an MLK Day march on Monday night.

"After what happened at the Capitol, a group approaching City Hall, there was particular sensitivity," de Blasio said. "No one anywhere in this country wants to see a repeat of what happened at the Capitol from, you know, anybody of any ideology. So that did cause some special conditions."

De Blasio did not provide evidence of a specific threat to City Hall. In a statement to Gothamist, mayoral press secretary Bill Neidhardt attempted to clarify that "Black Lives Matter protesters are clearly not similar to that reactionary movement."

But participants in the march bristled at the mayor's suggestion, accusing him of justifying excessive force on Black protesters by likening them to far-right extremists.

"It's ridiculous, insulting, and enraging that the mayor is attempting to use the Jan. 6 attack as an excuse for the Strategic Response Group's violence against MLK Day demonstrators — as if a Black queer and trans-led protest calling for racial justice and police accountability is comparable to an armed white supremacist mob," said Loyda Colon, the director of the Justice Committee, a group that helped organize the demonstration.

The crackdown on the march was led by roughly 100 officers with the Strategic Response Group, many of whom carried zip ties on their belts in apparent anticipation of arrests. Following a report that found SRG officers escalated tensions at this summer's demonstrations, the mayor and NYPD agreed in December to no longer rely on the heavily-militarized unit to police protests.

Like numerous past BLM marches, Monday's originated in Brooklyn and moved across the Brooklyn Bridge to lower Manhattan. Almost immediately after exiting the bridge, SRG officers attacked the group, swinging batons and fists at them, according to protesters.

At least two demonstrators were hospitalized, and 29 people were arrested. At the time, an anonymous City Hall official described the SRG's presence as "absurd."

On Friday, a de Blasio spokesperson claimed there was "heightened security" around City Hall before the march, but directed further inquiries to the NYPD, which did not respond to a request for comment.

The NYPD's response to an MLK Day protest on Monday night

An SRG officer seen grabbing a protester off the sidewalk and arresting him on Monday

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An SRG officer seen grabbing a protester off the sidewalk and arresting him on Monday
BRUCE SCHAFF/GOTHAMIST

A department spokesperson previously said that ten officers suffered minor injuries at the event. The most serious injury was to a police captain, who was hit in the helmet with a bottle, police said. Protesters, meanwhile, said that they were attacked by officers first, and responded by defending themselves.

Earlier this week, Police Commissioner Dermot Shea accused the marchers of "throwing bottles, breaking property, calling for the death of officers," before describing them as "the antithesis of what Martin Luther King stood for."

Tameer Peak, a 25-year-old activist who was arrested Monday on charges of obstructing governmental administration, said he wasn't overly concerned with the NYPD commissioner's invocation of King's message.

"I was arrested on MLK Day because Dermot Shea sicced his vicious minions on us," Peak told Gothamist. "For him to speak on Martin's legacy is asinine. Dermot Shea would have arrested Martin Luther King."