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Despite De Blasio's Appeal, Protesters March In New York


Protesters are marching once again in the streets of New York City.


UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: What do we want?


UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: When do we want it?


CORNISH: This despite the mayor's call to suspend demonstrations over police brutality. Mayor Bill de Blasio asked demonstrators to stay out of the streets until two police officers who were murdered in their squad car on Saturday could be buried. NPR's Joel Rose reports.

JOEL ROSE, BYLINE: The march up Fifth Avenue in Manhattan was organized by a group called the ANSWER Coalition.

EUGENE PURYEAR: We never considered canceling the protest.

ROSE: Eugene Puryear helped organize the march.

PURYEAR: Because, from our perspective, there is no connection between the protest movement and the killings of the police officers in Brooklyn.

ROSE: Like countless other marches in recent weeks, it's intended to protest the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner, two unarmed black men who died at the hands of police. In both cases, a grand jury decided not to indict the white officers involved.

PURYEAR: These are issues that cannot be swept under the rug, that are far too serious to not be addressed.

ROSE: This demonstration was planned before the deaths of NYPD officers Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu. They were shot in their squad car on Saturday by Ismaaiyl Brinsley, who then turned the gun on himself. Brinsley claimed on social media that the shootings were in retaliation for the deaths of Brown and Garner, and police in New York say Brinsley attended a demonstration here earlier this month. That led Police Commissioner Bill Bratton to make this connection during an interview Monday on NBC's "Today" show.


BILL BRATTON: It's quite apparent - quite obvious that the targeting of these two police officers was a direct spinoff of this issue of these demonstrations.

ROSE: The head of New York's largest police union went even further, saying the demonstrators and Mayor Bill de Blasio had, quote, "blood on their hands," unquote. On Monday, de Blasio asked everyone to tone down the rhetoric. And he called on demonstrators to take a temporary pause. Today, de Blasio observed a moment of silence at City Hall at the time the officers were killed, and spoke briefly.


MAYOR DE BLASIO: We need to protect and respect our police just as our police protect and respect our communities. We can strike that balance - we must. Right now, I want everyone to focus on these families, on their pain. Put yourselves in their shoes.

ROSE: Many police officers also observed a moment of silence in Brooklyn, at the site of a makeshift memorial to Ramos and Liu on the corner where they were killed. Protesters joined in condemning the shooting, but they say it's unfair to tie that event to the ongoing demonstrations over police brutality.


MARK GRIFFITH: This was the individual act of a mentally ill person.

ROSE: Mark Griffith is the executive director of the Brooklyn Movement Center. He spoke today on WNYC's "Brian Lehrer Show."


GRIFFITH: I think people are using it in a very cynical way to get the attention off of the police and to put us on the defensive.

ROSE: Police unions have also complained about incidents of violence at protests, like demonstrators who threw a garbage can at police on the Brooklyn Bridge. But demonstrators say the protests have been mostly nonviolent. Monifa Bandele is with the groups Communities United for Police Reform and She's urging protesters to go forward as if nothing has changed.

MONIFA BANDELE: I wouldn't want to say that things are going to be different now because the tone was about peace before. If you look at all of the demands from the major demonstrations over the past month, what we're doing is about peace, and it'll continue to be.

ROSE: Protests are set to continue on Saturday, the same day officers Ramos and Liu will be laid to rest. Joel Rose, NPR News, New York. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Joel Rose
Joel Rose is a correspondent on NPR's National Desk. He covers immigration and breaking news.
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