New York Mayor Bill de Blasio defended the New York City Police Department after a pair of the force’s SUVs drove into a crowd during Saturday’s protest against George Floyd’s death.
De Blasio reacted after videos were posted to social media, which showed protestors moving a yellow barrier in front a police vehicle in Brooklyn. Protestors threw traffic cones and other items at the SUV as a second vehicle arrived and slowly drove through the crowd forming around it.
The first vehicle then drove into the barricade at a higher speed, sending people sprawling. Multiple city officials told NBC News there were no injuries as a result of the incident.
In a news conference late Saturday, de Blasio called the video “upsetting,” but said protestors were wrong to surround the SUVs.
“It is inappropriate for protestors to surround a police vehicle and threaten police officers,” he said. “That’s wrong on its face and that hasn’t happened in the history of protests in this city.”
He added that it was “clear that a different element has come into play here who are trying to hurt police officers and trying to damage their vehicles.”
While he wished the officers had not driven into the crowd, de Blasio said he “understood they didn’t start the situation,” which he said was “started by a group of protesters converging on a police vehicle.”
De Blasio, a Democrat, has had a troubled relationship with the NYPD, particularly rank-and-file officers. In February, police leaders and unions lashed out at the mayor after a gunman attempted to assassinate one office and injured another.
Edward D. Mullins, the president of the Sergeants Benevolent Association, tweeted in February that members of the NYPD were “declaring war” on him.
Last August, the union declared it had “no confidence” in de Blasio, after it claimed that he had “unlawfully interfered” in the firing of Daniel Pantaleo, the officer who was seen on video using a chokehold during Eric Garner’s deadly arrest five years ago.
New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez accused de Blasio of “making excuses” for the NYPD.
“As mayor, this police department is under your leadership,” the Democrat congresswoman tweeted early Sunday. “This moment demands leadership and accountability from each of us. Defending and making excuses for NYPD running SUVs into crowds was wrong.”
The force posted a clip from de Blasio’s news conference of him defending the videos, on its NYPD News Twitter feed.
A senior police official told NBC News that the NYPD had seen the video and been told by “multiple law enforcement officials” that @the vehicle was hit with rocks, bottles, and someone through a lit trash bag on top of the SUV.”
They added that the officers “decided to push the barrier into the crowd instead of confronting the protestors outside the car.”
Officers were concerned they would run over someone if they backed up, they said.