NEW YORK—A coalition of activists issued a scathing statement Monday, addressed to NYPD Police Commissioner William Bratton and police union leader Patrick Lynch.
The letter, signed by over a dozen grass-roots organizations, including Black Lives Matter and Brooklyn Movement Center, charges the NYPD with attempting to silence the protests of those “seeking justice for victims of police violence,” as well as “reckless attempts to conflate constitutionally protected protest activities with the tragic murders of officers Ramos and Liu.”
Saturday afternoon, officers Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu were sitting inside their police vehicle in the Bedford-Stuyvesant area of Brooklyn, when 28-year-old Ismaaiyl Brinsley walked up to the car and shot his gun through the front passenger window, striking each officer in the head. Minutes later, Brinsley killed himself.
Prior to the shooting, Brinsley, who had an extensive criminal record and a history of attempted suicides, posted on his social media account that he planned to kill police officers in retaliation for the deaths of Eric Garner and Michael Brown, two black men killed by white police officers in New York City and Ferguson, Mo.
On Monday, de Blasio and Bratton held a press conference inside the police department’s Manhattan headquarters, asking that protesters put on hold their demonstrations against police brutality in the wake of Garner and Brown’s deaths. For weeks, they have marched through city streets and staged peaceful protests to call for reforms in how police interact with communities of color.
“Let’s just focus on the families and what they have lost. I think that’s the right way to move toward building a more unified and decent city,” said de Blasio.
“We’ve responded by meeting in our homes, offices, and school—and walking out of them, with our hands up. Thousands of others have organized small actions that when woven together have tremendous impact. The problem isn’t the diverse voices that participate in dissent, a cornerstone of our democracy,” the letter stated.
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The activists asked those “who stand on the side of justice to join us.”
While there have been a number of vigils held for the police officers by protesters in the last few days, today saw the continuation of protests against police use of force. A group of youth protest leaders in New York rallied in Union Square on Monday. Another group intends to hold a press conference Tuesday announcing plans for a New Year’s Eve protest.
The mayor called Brinsley a “troubled individual” and a “career criminal,” while protesters have peacefully expressed “their desire for a more fair society.” He urged the public not to connect Brinsley with the peaceful protesters.
“We have to separate the various things going on here,” de Blasio said. He added that supporting the protesters’ views and the work of police officers “are not contradictory thoughts.”
Bob Boyce, NYPD detective and lead investigator said the police department had recovered Brinsley’s cellphone from Baltimore, Md., where he resided. On it they found a video that Brinsley took of a recent Union Square demonstration against police brutality. Boyce said he did not participate in the protest and was “just a spectator.”
The police department also uncovered more messages that Brinsley posted on his Instagram social media account, where he went on extensive tirades against the government.
The police are still unclear about Brinsley’s whereabouts from 12 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. Saturday. He was last seen at the Atlantic Terminal Mall in Brooklyn. In surveillance footage that the police retrieved, Brinsley could be seen carrying a white plastic bag with a Styrofoam container inside it. Police believe his gun was inside the container.
Boyce urged the public to inform police if anyone had seen Brinsley in the area during that time frame Saturday. Brinsley was last seen wearing a jacket with a red and white Indian arrowhead patch on the back.
When asked by reporters how the mayor planned to move the city forward after the shooting, de Blasio said he believed the tragedy would help unite New Yorkers, despite their differing views.
“Somehow we get our city together, bring police and community closer together. I have always believed we could—never been a doubt in my mind, that we’re working toward a day when there’s greater harmony between police and community. It’s achievable and it must be achieved,” he said.
He and Bratton both said that they were hopeful New Yorkers can transcend their differences and work toward a common goal of safer and fairer policing tactics.