Protesters assaulted two NYPD lieutenants on the Brooklyn Bridge on Saturday night, police officials said.
The two lieutenants were on the roadway of the Brooklyn Bridge about 8 p.m. when they heard reports of "debris being thrown on the walkway" at police officers who were walking alongside protesters involved in Saturday's New York City rally against police shootings of unarmed black men, said NYPD Chief of Department James P. O'Neill. The lieutenants, assigned to the Legal Bureau, saw "a male attempting to throw a garbage can at the cops on the roadway," he said. The lieutenants tried to arrest the man, but "numerous protesters intervened and prevented the arrest."
Several people then began assaulting the officers, said John Miller, deputy commissioner of intelligence and counterterrorism. The lieutenants were "knocked to the ground, kicked by various people, kicked in the face and in the head, while the group attempted to steal their portable radios and tear away their jackets."
The lieutenants were hospitalized Saturday night, one with a broken nose.
"The police department has gone far, and will go far in general, to ensure the right to protest," O'Neill said. "But there are people within those groups who are practiced at this tactic, who deliberately seek out violence and disorder. These individuals are not interested in lawful protests. They have their own agenda . . . to create physical and violent conflicts."
In a statement Saturday night, Mayor Bill de Blasio said the Brooklyn Bridge incident "marks an ugly and unacceptable departure from the demonstrations thus far. Let us be clear: there is no place whatsoever for violence of any kind, whether against the police or against our fellow citizens, in New York City."
The garbage thrower on the bridge fled, leaving behind his jacket and bag, which the NYPD now has. Inside the bag were three hammers and a black mask. The hammers still had price tags, "indicating they were recently purchased," Miller said.
No arrests of the lieutenants' attackers were made Saturday, but O'Neill said: "I assure you they will be."
"Over the past few weeks we have gone through great lengths to ensure, even facilitate, people's ability to protest," O'Neill said. "There are few departments as experienced at this than the NYPD. All during this time, our officers have shown extraordinary restraint and patience in the face of verbal abuse and much more."
But with cops being assaulted, "this is where we have to draw the line," O"Neill said. "These assaults do not come with the territory."
Asked to clarify what he meant by drawing the line, he said: "As long as the protests are not violent, we'll continue to police the protests the way we're policing them."
During a protest last week, O'Neill said an NYPD sergeant was assaulted at the Staten Island Ferry and on Thursday an inspector was punched in the head.
Protesters smashed the rear window of a car with two city traffic agents inside on Madison Avenue on Saturday night, he said.