Protesters rallied outside Borough Hall on Tuesday evening to decry what they say is insufficient support of the police.
Recent pro-police-reform protests have divided New Yorkers, endangered police officers, and sowed disorder, demonstrators said at the Support Your Local Police event, which followed a similar one last week in Queens. Only 50 people showed, but the tens of thousands who marched to protest the killing of Gowanus native Eric Garner and subsequent lack of consequences for the officers involved do not reflect the opinions of the city’s 8 million residents, organizers claimed.
“[The majority] don’t want to hear about anything else other than their undying support for the officers who they count on for their public safety here in the streets of the city of New York everyday,” said Joseph Concannon, a retired NYPD captain who heads the Square Deal Committee, which organized the rally.
As he spoke, someone nearby chanted “I can’t breathe,” echoing Garner’s dying words as an officer choked him and others piled onto him. The cops said they stopped him on suspicion of selling untaxed cigarettes, and in a confrontation caught on video, Garner demanded that they leave him alone, saying, “This stops today.”
A grand jury in December opted not to bring charges against Officer Daniel Pantaleo, who first brought Garner down with a chokehold banned by NYPD protocol. The decision, following on the heels of a grand jury’s decision not to indict the officer who killed Ferguson, Missouri teen Michael Brown, sparked weeks of protests that snarled traffic on bridges and roads around the city.
Some at Tuesday’s rally blamed Rev. Al Sharpton for making discussion of the Garner case about police racism, and bashed journalists for supposedly being biased in favor of police-reform protesters. Rather than criticism, officers need to hear appreciation for their work to protect people from terrorism and crime, the activists said.
“Our officers are being told that they’re anything that the media wanted. They’re being told they’re disrespectful, they’re selfish, they’re unwanted — that they’re anything but valiant,” said Ann Schockett, who previously worked for the Nassau County Police Department in public relations. “That is not the truth.”
The Square Deal Committee has scheduled five more rallies across the city in the upcoming six weeks.
Some who attended said that there is common ground between those who criticize police actions and policies and those who are singing the NYPD’s praises.
“Like everyone else, [I’m] torn between both sides of the issue, but I don’t think that everyone should be vilified by the acts of a few people under any circumstances,” said a Brooklyn Heights resident who only gave her first name, Evelyn.