In the wake of last night's fatal shooting of five police officers during a peaceful protest in Dallas, the NYPD has ordered officers to patrol in pairs and promised a "very, very strong" police presence at any Black Lives Matter protests this weekend. At a press conference today, Mayor Bill de Blasio and NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton emphasized protesters' legal right to demonstrate peacefully, but asked that protesters be mindful of the officers' feelings given last night's sniper attack in Dallas.
"It's so important to recognize these officers were there protecting the protesters' rights to act on their views," de Blasio said. "They protected the protesters even as bullets were hailing down..that's something we have to reflect on as an example of all that is good about our police and the work that they do, but also a reminder of the way forward, because even in that most difficult and painful and tragic moment, the police defended everyone around them."
De Blasio also asked that protesters "recognize the pain that our police are going through and be very respectful," and "show some decency and respect for people going through so much."
At last night's protest in NYC, over 1,000 people denounced the fatal police shootings of three black men that occurred within the span of a week, mourning Alton Sterling, 37, shot in Baton Rouge; Philando Castile, 32, shot in Minneapolis; and Delrawn Small, 37, shot in East New York. One protester, Monica Afessi, told us that she attended because she was "scared for myself, I'm scared for every member of my family, and I'm overwhelmed with sadness, and it was a hard day today to even get out of the house."
— malkia a. cyril (@culturejedi) July 8, 2016
At this afternoon's presser, neither Bratton nor de Blasio directly addressed the killings of these three black men that led to the protests they were discussing, though Bratton did acknowledge that there are "concerns about the lives of several black men at the hands of police officers," and said that these recent events should be "a clarion call for all of us to take seriously the grievances many minorities have, as well as the concerns the police have."
Currently, police officials said, there are 17 active threats against police officers, though none have been deemed credible. They'll be investigated fully, and the NYPD said they can quickly increase security at stationhouses or around patrol cars as needed. Additionally, auxiliary police—uniformed volunteers who are unarmed with the exception of nightsticks—aren't going to be utilized in the field for the next several days.
De Blasio also appeared on WNYC today to discuss the week's tragic events, and fielded questions about the city's approach to police biases and brutality—one caller pleaded for people to "look beyond each other’s color and deal with people for what they are," while another demanded to know what's being changed in the training of NYPD officers to "prevent the power going to their heads and making them unreasonable sometimes."
"You are describing such a fundamental reality," de Blasio told the first caller. "And I think there's still a lack of recognition in our society of what you just said—that for so many people they know that even in 2016, they will instantly be judged by the color of their skin. And so we love repeating Dr. King’s speech from the March on Washington, but the same reality exists. There's a reality of structural racism in our society we haven't overcome."
Additional reporting by Emily Siegel.