Mayor Bill de Blasio praises peaceful NYC march over Eric Garner's death

Members of New York City's clergy, Mayor Bill

Members of New York City's clergy, Mayor Bill de Blasio and NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton attend an interfaith roundtable meeting on strengthening police-community relations hosted by Cardinal Timothy Dolan at St. Patrick's Cathedral on August 20, 2014. (Credit: Jeremy Bales)

Mayor Bill de Blasio Sunday praised the peaceful nature of a weekend march for justice in the police-involved death of Eric Garner, calling New York City a "beacon of the right way to do things."

Thousands turned out for the demonstration Saturday led by the Rev. Al Sharpton on Staten Island, though de Blasio was not among the attendees.

"The march clearly was an example of police and protesters finding a way to get things done in a positive, democratic fashion," the mayor said on WNBM/103.9 FM, an R&B station. "And it is something New Yorkers should be proud of."


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De Blasio said he believes 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."

Sharpton led demonstrators from the site of Garner's July 17 arrest to the Staten Island district attorney's office.

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. The city medical examiner's office ruled his death a homicide, and Staten Island prosecutors said they will present evidence to a grand jury.

On a separate radio program Sunday, Staten Island District Attorney Daniel Donovan said he has put 10 investigators unaffiliated with the NYPD and eight lawyers on the case -- the "biggest allocation of resources since I've taken office that I've used on any matter."

A judge will assemble a grand jury next month to hear testimony and review evidence, Donovan said on WNYM/970 AM's "The Cats Roundtable." "I have to collect the dots before I connect the dots," he said.

Another guest, former Gov. David A. Paterson, a march attendee, said it's a difficult task for Donovan to investigate the police, with whom the district attorney's office works closely. Asked whether Sharpton should have waited to hear the grand jury's findings before organizing a protest, Paterson said no. "The time to remind everybody in the system that there needs to be fairness and justice is exactly when the incident occurs," he said.

Asked about NYPD Commissioner William Bratton's so-called broken windows policy of targeting petty crimes, Donovan said he's a "fan of enforcing all the laws."

Police reported no arrests and no destruction of property in the march, and Sunday said the site remained calm. The rally stood in contrast to the days of often-violent unrest in Ferguson, Missouri, where the community reacted after Michael Brown, 18, who was unarmed, was shot to death Aug. 9 by a police officer.

New York City's law enforcement and political leaders will make a "series of reforms" to the NYPD on top of what has already been done, de Blasio said. He said police retraining is on the top of the list.

"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."

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