Protesters return to New York, despite mayor’s plea for pause

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Photo courtesy of PIX11/Ayana Harry

NEW YORK (CNN) — A protest against racism and police violence packed sidewalks in New York on Tuesday, despite calls from the city’s mayor for a pause in demonstrations.

As they marched past shops on the city’s storied Fifth Avenue, some protesters chanted “Hey-hey, ho-ho. These racist cops have got to go” and “How do you spell racist? N-Y-P-D.”; others carried signs saying “Jail killer cops” and “Stop the war on Black America.”

Photo courtesy of PIX11/Ayana Harry

Photo courtesy of PIX11/Ayana Harry

Mayor Bill de Blasio had asked for the demonstrations to stop until after funerals for two police officers who were slain over the weekend in Brooklyn.

But organizers of Tuesday’s protest said there was no reason to “give in to hysteria” and call off the march.

At first, marchers stayed on the sidewalks as a large police presence, with officers — some wearing riot helmets and face shields — keeping protesters from impeding holiday traffic.

Eventually, the demonstration spilled into the streets.

The protest came hours after a moment of silence at New York’s City Hall at 2:47 p.m., three days to the minute since a gunman ambushed New York Police Department Officers Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu.

“There’s a lot of pain right now that we have to work our way through,” de Blasio said. “We have to keep working to bring police and community together. We have to put the divisions of the past behind us.”

The mayor repeated his calls for the city to focus on the families of the fallen officers.

“Please embrace those around you as a symbol of our belief that we will move forward together,” he said after marking the moment when two officers were shot in an ambush.

At 9 p.m ET, buildings and landmarks on the New York skyline — including the Empire State and Chrysler buildings, One World Trade Center and 30 Rockefeller Plaza — will dim their lights for five minutes in honor of slain officers.

The backlash

De Blasio has come under fire since the shooting, facing criticism that he’s fanned tensions between the public and police.

Authorities haven’t established the gunman’s motive, but they’ve noted that Ismaaiyl Brinsley, 28, broadcast his plans to kill police on social media.

And in some of his posts, investigators have said, he mentioned the controversial cases of Michael Brown and Eric Garner, African-American men who were killed by police.

Since Saturday’s shooting, critics have taken aim at de Blasio’s earlier comments supporting protesters who’ve voiced their concerns about the case of Garner, a 43-year-old who died in July after police in Staten Island placed him in what appeared to be a chokehold.

A wave of protests erupted in New York City — and nationwide — after the officer involved was not indicted.

The head of New York’s police union said de Blasio had “blood on his hands.” And, in the aftermath of Saturday’s shootings, video showed officers turning their backs on the mayor as he walked through a hospital.

Organizers of Tuesday’s protest in New York accused some leaders of manipulating the situation.

“This is a misguided response to the current situation and is meant to chill the expression of free speech rights,” the ANSWER Coalition said in a statement. “Representatives of police unions are taking advantage of and seizing upon the actions of a lone, troubled individual who shot his ex-girlfriend and then killed two police officers in Brooklyn to smear, discredit and end the broad social movement that has demanded accountability, an end to police misconduct and police violence.”

Police seeking help

Police are asking the public’s help to piece together how the gunman who killed the two officers spent two hours before the slayings.

Brinsley, who ranted against the government and law enforcement on social media, ambushed and shot to death Ramos and Liu as they sat in their patrol car at about 2:45 p.m. Saturday in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Bedford-Stuyvesant.

Police have said Brinsley started his day in Baltimore, where he shot and seriously wounded his ex-girlfriend at her apartment in the early morning and then took a Bolt bus to New York.

Police Commissioner William Bratton told reporters that investigators believe the gunman acted alone, but he said that police still need a full understanding of Brinsley’s actions.

“We owe it to the families to find out what happened,” Bratton said. “That’s why we’re seeking to build this case up, so we know going forward exactly who talked to this man.”

Mourners flock to memorial

De Blasio and his wife were among the mourners who stopped Tuesday by a memorial at the site where the officers were killed, looking at flowers and an American flag hanging on the wall of a building.

Also drawn to the street memorial: the daughter of Eric Garner.

“It was important to me, because in the case of my dad, people came out and they supported us. I just felt really saddened by it, because a young kid lost their father like I did,” Emerald Garner told CNN’s “AC360.”

Protesters have been pushing for a peaceful response, she said.

And pushing for change, she said, doesn’t mean they’re anti-police.

“Not all cops are bad,” she said. “We’ve just got to salute the good ones and weed out the bad ones.”

The gunman who killed the officers ignored their message and “took it upon himself to take negative actions,” she said.

“It’s ugly and it’s very tragic,” Garner said. “I don’t want anybody to die. There shouldn’t be any more bloodshed. Nobody needs to lose their life in a senseless way.”

CNN’s Miguel Marquez and Martin Savidge reported from New York. CNN’s Catherine E. Shoichet wrote the story in Atlanta. CNN’s Ashley Fantz, Shimon Prokupecz, Martin Savidge, Holly Yan, Joe Sutton, Alexandra Field, Ray Sanchez, Rick Martin, Alexandra Jaffe, Elise Miller, Daniel Verello and Andy Rose contributed to this report.