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Mayor Bill de Blasio praises peaceful NYC march over Eric Garner's death
Mayor Bill de Blasio on Sunday morning called New York City a "beacon of the right way to do things" after thousands peacefully marched in Staten Island a day earlier demanding justice in the police-involved death of Eric Garner.
"The march clearly was an example of police and protesters finding a way to get things done in a positive, democratic fashion," de Blasio said on Radio 103.9 FM, a talk and R&B station, "and it is something New Yorkers should be proud of."
The mayor noted that there is a "long road" to restoring trust between the NYPD and minority communities because "we have a lot of work to do, a lot of history to address, but I know we can get there. I know we can bring police and community together. I know we can become a safer city in the process."
De Blasio did not attend the march, led by the Rev. Al Sharpton from the site of Garner's July 17 arrest to the Staten Island district attorney's office. The mayor instead spoke Saturday at a Brooklyn church and said he was in regular contact with police during the rally. Former and sitting elected officials at the demonstration, called We Will Not Go Back, included former Gov. David Paterson and City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito.
Garner, 43, of Staten Island, died after being put in a banned chokehold by a police officer as he was being arrested on suspicion of peddling illegal cigarettes. His family members attended Sharpton's march. The city's medical examiner officer ruled his death a homicide and Staten Island prosecutors said they will present evidence to a grand jury.
Police reported no arrests and no destruction of property in the march, which stretched for blocks. The Saturday rally stood in stark contrast to the days of unrest and violence in Ferguson, Missouri, where the community reacted after Michael Brown, 18, who was unarmed was shot to death on Aug. 9 by a police officer.
The city is ready for unity and its leaders will make a "series of reforms" to the NYPD on top of what has already been done, de Blasio said Sunday. He did not detail the new reforms, but said the retraining of police officers -- a measure that NYPD Commissioner William Bratton announced after Garner's death -- is on the top of the list. Under de Blasio, the department has modified its use of so-called stop-and-frisk, which had been criticized for disproportionately targeting of black and Hispanic youths, and made fewer stops and a higher arrest rate.
"We have to help people understand that the NYPD is here to protect and respect," de Blasio said, "and therefore it's also crucial that community members respect the NYPD and work with NYPD officers."
The message of mutual respect must be repeated in communities and in houses of worship, the mayor said.
The radio program was hosted by Norman Seabrook, president of the New York City Correction Officers' Benevolent Association, but he and de Blasio did not discuss the U.S. attorney's recent report detailing unnecessary excessive force and denial of constitutional rights against teenage inmates at Rikers Island.
On a separate radio program later Sunday morning, Staten Island District Attorney Daniel Donovan said he has put 10 investigators unaffiliated with the NYPD and eight lawyers on Garner's case -- the "biggest allocation of resources since I've taken office that I've used on any matter."
A grand jury will be assembled next month to hear testimony and review evidence, he told 2013 mayoral candidate John Catsimatidis on "The Cats Roundtable" on 970 WNYM-FM. "I had to collect the dots before I connect the dots," he said.
Asked his opinion of Bratton's so-called broken windows policy of policing, which focuses on low-level crimes, Donovan didn't directly answer. The district attorney said 98 percent of city residents are law-abiding, though some live in neighborhoods ridden with minor crime and deserve better. "I've been a fan of enforcing all of the laws," he said.
Another guest, Paterson, who attended Saturday's march, said it's very hard to ask the district attorney to investigate his own office or the police, with whom he works closely.
Paterson said he does not believe Sharpton should have waited to hear the grand jury's results before holding a rally. "The time to remind everybody in the system that there needs to be fairness and justice is exactly when the incident occurs," he said.