New Yorkers upset by a grand jury’s decision not to indict a police officer in the chokehold death of an unarmed man should “take that pain and frustration and work for change,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said Thursday.
“The relationship between police and community has to change,” he said. “The way we go about policing has to change. It has to change in this city it has to change in this country.”
On Wednesday, protesters spilled into the city streets after the grand jury chose not to charge Officer Daniel Pantaleo in the death of Eric Garner, who was confronted by police in July for allegedly selling individual cigarettes.
Police made 83 arrests, but the protests were overwhelmingly peaceful. The mayor praised police for their handling of the demonstrations. He spoke at an event to publicize a previously announced police retraining program.
De Blasio encouraged people to respect the memory not just of Garner but of Michael Brown, the unarmed teenager shot to death by an officer in Ferguson, Missouri. The Garner and Brown families have each encouraged protesters to be peaceful.
“The message from the people who are hurting the most is that violence will do no good,” de Blasio said. “It will only set back the cause of reform. And I think a lot of people last night heard that message loud and clear.”
Police Commissioner Bill Bratton said there were no instances of vandalism during the protests. He also pointed out that the lighting of the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree, which took place a block away from some protests, was not disrupted.
Bratton would not address the Garner matter, which remains under investigation by the Police Department.
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