Hundreds of demonstrators marched through Manhattan last night, rejecting Mayor Bill de Blasio's call for a pause of protests over police conduct until two NYPD officers slain this past weekend are buried.
Nearly 500 protesters began marching north at 5 p.m. in midtown Manhattan. By the time the demonstrations wrapped up just before 11 p.m., about 200 people remained at Amsterdam Avenue and 145th Street. Throughout the night, protesters marched peacefully but frequently blocked traffic.
When they reached Harlem, they clashed several times with NYPD officers who threatened to arrest them if they continued to block traffic. There were no reports of arrests.
Earlier in the day, Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito and about 30 colleagues also urged that demonstrations be halted out of respect for the grieving families of Officers Wenjian Liu, 32, of Gravesend, Brooklyn, and Rafael Ramos, 40, of Cypress Hills, Brooklyn. The partners were ambushed Saturday in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, by a gunman who had posted online his determination to kill cops.
"Now is the time to tone down the rhetoric and come together as a city to remember Officers Liu and Ramos," Mark-Viverito said at City Hall. "A stoppage will give our city a chance to heal as one."
Mark-Viverito and other council members have participated in past protests against the grand jury decisions to not indict police involved in the deaths of Eric Garner on Staten Island and Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri.
On Fifth and Madison avenues last night, protesters converged with holiday shoppers.
Some called for the ouster of Police Commissioner William Bratton, while others chanted "NYPD, KKK, how many kids did you kill today?"
Protest leaders defended their right to march and said the three weeks of demonstrations have nothing to do with Liu's and Ramos' shootings.
"We don't believe our movement is connected to the tragedy in Brooklyn, so there's not any controversy, and their argument lacks any force," said organizer Eugene Puryear, 28, of Washington, D.C. "How is this disrespectful to families when the movement is to stop when police murder someone? It's our only way to find justice."
The mayor on Monday repeatedly urged anti-police brutality protesters, NYPD union leaders and others "across the spectrum" to suspend debate and demonstrations. He also railed against news reports about hateful speech that some protesters have directed at police and rejected police union leaders' charges that he contributed to an anti-police atmosphere.
On Tuesday, he took a quieter tone, visiting the makeshift memorial at the site of Liu's and Ramos' deaths. First lady Chirlane McCray laid flowers.
Later he led his staff in a moment of silence at 2:47 p.m. -- when the officers were fatally shot -- with bowed heads in City Hall.
"There's a lot of pain right now. We have to work our way through that pain," he said. "We have to put the divisions of the past behind us."
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, in a WNYC radio interview, refused to side with de Blasio or the police unions that have criticized the mayor, but said that protester rhetoric was out of hand.
"To say it was only one or two chants saying, 'We want dead cops' -- one or two is one or two too many," he said.
Cuomo also said he's spoken with police union leaders and the Rev. Al Sharpton.
"They all agreed to basically stand down and bring the decibel level down," he said.
Mark-Viverito disagreed with de Blasio's blaming members of the press for creating a divisive environment.
"I don't share in that thought," she said.
With Alison Fox
and Michael Gormley