Hundreds of protesters took to the streets of New York City Tuesday night, defying a call by Mayor Bill de Blasio for a moratorium on demonstrations until two NYPD officers killed Saturday could be laid to rest.
The New York Post reported that over a thousand activists marched through one of midtown Manhattan's most prominent shopping districts two nights before Christmas. The march began at 5th and 59th Street and headed south to 53rd Street before turning north. Marchers told the paper they planned to end with a protest at a precinct in East Harlem.
Some of the activists turned their fury on de Blasio, who was elected mayor last year on a platform of reforming the city's police force, including ending the controversial so-called "stop and frisk" tactic.
"The mayor says stop that, we say [expletive] that!" yelled activists, while jumping in place.
"We're protesting tonight, because the mayor specifically said not to," 25-year-old Tarik Grand, of Brooklyn told the Post. "They asked for a moment of silence for the cops, but not for [Eric] Garner."
Garner died this past July after apparently being placed in a chokehold by NYPD officers on State Island during a confrontation over his selling of so-called "loosies," or untaxed cigarettes. A grand jury's decision to not indict the officer has sparked ongoing protests.
The tension surrounding the nationwide debate over police tactics and conduct, as well as recent high profile shootings of unarmed black men, was heightened by Saturday's murder of Officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos as they sat in their patrol car in Brooklyn. The killer, 28-year-old Ismaaiyl Brinsley, had previously shot and wounded his ex-girlfriend at her home outside Baltimore, then made threatening posts online, including a vow to put "wings on pigs". After shooting the officers, Brinsley ran into a subway station and committed suicide.
De Blasio, who called for a pause in the protests Monday, faces a widening rift with members a grieving police force who accuse him of creating a climate of mistrust that contributed to the killings of the officers. The mayor's request was summarily rejected by activist groups, one of which called it an attempt to "chill the expression of free speech rights."
New York Police Commissioner William Bratton, speaking Tuesday in Rhode Island, said it was "unfortunate" that some protests continued despite the mayor's plea.
Many of Tuesday's marchers directed inflammatory chants toward police officers, such as "How do you spell murderers? N-Y-P-D!" Another chant went "NYPD, KKK, how many kids did you kill today?"
"Personally, I feel it was horrible what happened to the police officers," Rutgers University student Frangy Pozo told the Post. "We’re not saying we're against them. [But] just because they died shouldn’t slow us down."
Also Tuesday, city landmarks including the Empire State Building and the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree dimmed their lights from 9 p.m. to 9:05 p.m. Tuesday to honor the slain officers.
The mayor and his wife quietly visited the site of the shooting on Tuesday morning, spending several minutes there. De Blasio folded his hands before him and stood with his head bowed. His wife placed flowers among dozens of tributes.
Later, de Blasio observed a moment of silence at 2:47 p.m., the time the officers were shot.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.