Mayor Bill de Blasio urged protesters to eschew violence and vandalism in an impassioned press conference in Staten Island tonight. Speaking hours after a grand jury declined to indict NYPD officer Daniel Pantaleo in the death of Eric Garner, de Blasio said he sees "this crisis through a very personal lens," explaining that he had "trained" his son Dante for years in "how to take special care in any encounter he has with police officers who are there to protect him."
"For so many of our young people there's a fear," the mayor, flanked by local leaders, told reporters. "I've had to worry over the years. Chirlane's had to worry. Was Dante safe each night? There are so many families in this city who feel that each and every night. Is my child safe? And not just from some of the crime and violence, but are they safe from some of the very people they want to have faith in as their protectors?"
Connecting the Garner grand jury decision to the nationwide protests that followed the Ferguson grand jury decision, de Blasio said, "This is now a national moment of grief, a national moment of pain. You've heard in so many places people of all backgrounds utter the same basic phrase: 'Black lives matter.' And they've said it because it had to be said. It's a phrase that should never have to be said, it should be self-evident. But our history, sadly, requires us to say that black lives matter."
De Blasio reminded New Yorkers that the NYPD may still take "administrative" action against Officer Pantaleo, and that he'd heard from the U.S. Attorney General's office, which promised a "thorough" investigation. And he repeatedly implored protesters to demonstrate peacefully, explaining that he had just spoken with Eric Garner's father Ben Garner, who said his son would not have wanted violence. "Violence will not get us anywhere," de Blasio said. "You will not sully Eric Garner's name with violence... Work for change in the right way."
Demonstrations are currently unfolding in Staten Island and Manhattan, where some protesters are intent on disrupting the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree lighting ceremony tonight.