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De Blasio Asks for Protests, Politics to Stop as City Mourns Slain Officers

By  Emily Frost Danielle Tcholakian and Tom Liddy | December 22, 2014 2:46pm 

 Mayor Bill de Blasio addresses the Police Athletic League in the wake of the killings of Officers Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu.
Mayor Bill de Blasio addresses the Police Athletic League in the wake of the killings of Officers Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu.
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NEW YORK CITY — Mayor Bill de Blasio called for an end to protests and political debates so the families of two officers killed in the line of duty in Brooklyn over the weekend can grieve.

The city has been swept by a string of protests over the past several weeks after a grand jury decided not to indict NYPD Officer Daniel Pantaleo in the apparent chokehold death of Eric Garner on Staten Island.

The protests have seen pockets of confrontation with police, most notably in recent days with two lieutenants being assaulted during a protest on the Brooklyn Bridge on Dec. 15. One, Lt. Phillip Chan, had his nose broken in the skirmish.

The police unions have lambasted de Blasio for calling protests peaceful and describing the attack on the lieutenants as "alleged."

A somber de Blasio told the audience at a Police Athletic League event in Midtown that it was time to "put aside political debates, put aside protests, put aside all of the things we will talk about in due time."

"That can be for another day," he added. "Then debate can begin again [after the funerals]."

Instead, he called on New Yorkers to focus on the families of Officers Wenjian Liu, 32, and Rafael Ramos, 40, who were gunned down in broad daylight by shooter Ismaaiyl Brinsley.

"These families are now our family and we will stand by them," the mayor told the audience, which included former Mayor David Dinkins and former Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau.

"They're suffering an unspeakable pain right now."

Police Commissioner Bill Bratton said in the wake of the shootings the city's five police unions were "standing down" until the funerals for Liu and Ramos were over. Services were set for Friday and Saturday for Ramos, but arrangements had not yet been made for Liu.

But some protesters vowed to push on and blasted the call as an attempt to stifle the protest movement, despite calling the killing of the officers "tragic."

"Unfortunately, we continue to see elected officials and police leadership twist this tragedy into an opportunity for them to silence the cries for justice from families who have lost their loved ones to police violence," said the statement from Ferguson Action, which was signed by several other groups. "Our families matter, too."

Earlier in the day, de Blasio met with the families of both officers, accompanied by his wife, Chirlane McCray, and Bratton, for about 20 minutes each and did not speak to reporters on the way out.

De Blasio's outreach effort Monday came amid a firestorm of criticism from police unions about the mayor's treatment of the NYPD, attacking him for calling the protesters "peaceful" and saying that he warned his son, Dante, who is mixed race, about the dangers of interacting with police.

De Blasio said that department is feeling a tremendous amount of pain and that the attack by Brinsley was "an attack on all officers."

He called for New Yorkers to take a moment to thank police officers that they see in the street.

"I have throughout my public life expressed tremendous respect for the NYPD," the mayor said at a press briefing at 1 Police Plaza.

"We are working towards a day when there is a greater harmony between police and community."

Bratton denied reports that there was any work slowdown amongst officers.

Recently, de Blasio met with protesters and admonished them to turn in anyone who was making threats against police officers.

"If they saw any in their midst who intended to do violence...the protesters should be the first to turn in those bad actors to the police," he said.

"It is all of our obligations to take the information we have and use it to prevent future tragedies."

Protesters said they planned to move forward with a march to take over Fifth Avenue, in Midtown Tuesday evening, according to statements made by participating groups.

“We intend to continue to exercise our free speech rights upheld by the U.S. Constitution to assemble and engage in peaceful protest against police violence,” said one of the event’s organizing groups, A.N.S.W.E.R., in an online statement Monday.

“These rights are not conditioned on the approval of any elected official.”

A Facebook event page post lists a number of "initiating organizations" including New Yorkers Against Bratton and El Grito de Sunset Park.

As of Monday evening, about 1,300 people had signed up to participate in the protest, which aims to "jail killer cops" and "fire Bill Bratton," according to Facebook.

Amin Husain, 39, with the group NYC Solidarity with Palestine, which has added its name to the list of groups initiating the Fifth Avenue march, said de Blasio was wrong to ask the protesters to stop.

He also said that there should have been a moment of silence for Garner and Mike Brown, who was killed by police in Ferguson, Mo., as well as Akai Gurley, an unarmed man who was accidentally killed by a rookie police officer in Brooklyn.

“Why does de Blasio ask us to grieve now? Where was this leadership earlier?" he asked. "Why didn’t we put the flag half-staff for [Garner and Gurley]? Why didn’t [de Blasio] visit their families?”

Dwayne Neckles, 35, was one of about 20 people who discussed ways protesters should address accusations that they were responsible for the officers' deaths at a Wall Street atrium Monday night.

"I don't condone violence on the cops or anybody," he said, but added that protests should continue. "We have to stand up for ourselves."

Additional reporting by Emily Frost, Lisha Arino and Rosa Goldensohn.