De Blasio Defends NYPD’s Aggressive, First Amendment-Suppressing Tactics

May 1, 2015 | Liam Mathews

Mayor de Blasio, working to keep the NYPD from turning their backs on him again, snapped at reporters during a Thursday press conference who questioned the NYPD’s aggressive crackdown on demonstrators during Wednesday’s Freddie Gray protests.

“When the police give you instruction, you follow the instruction. It’s not debatable,” the New York Times quotes de Blasio as saying. Here, de Blasio is dismissing the point of the protests, which are against exactly that kind of police infallibility. This statement exonerates police officers who tackled and arrested 143 protestors who had the audacity to march in the street. Police on Wednesday began arresting people as soon as the march began in a display of force meant to show that dissent is unwelcome.

“All I heard was, ‘Listen to the police, do what the police say,’ ” Gideon Oliver, a civil rights lawyer who represents a group that organized the rally, told the Times. “If the mayor’s answer to problems of abuse of police discretion is ‘just listen to what police say,’ that’s obviously a very big problem.”

The Times writes:

Mr. de Blasio grew visibly frustrated at the notion that the police in Union Square had been too aggressive with protesters, telling reporters, “If you guys want to sensationalize, if you think that’s your contribution to society, feel free.”

How’s this for “sensationalization”: The Bill of Rights protects the right to peaceful assembly. Arresting people who disobey orders intended to suppress that right violates the First Amendment. The NYPD is acting unconstitutionally, with the backing of Mayor de Blasio. Perhaps the NYPD considers marching in the street and disrupting traffic violence. It isn’t. It’s a minor illegal offense, but murder is also illegal, and police murdered Freddie Gray, Eric Garner, Mike Brown, Tamir Rice, and on and on. Complying on principle with police instructions would undermine the entire movement.

De Blasio – who was arrested for protesting during his mayoral campaign – has either walked back on his past activism to appease the NYPD or shown that his activism was an empty gesture meant to curry favor with voters.

(Photo: Aymann Ismail/ANIMALNewYork)