By Mario Villar
A day after two policemen were killed, New York is witnessing new friction between the police force and Mayor Bill de Blasio owing to the latter’s support for protests against police violence in recent weeks.
The tragedy occurred when two officers were shot dead execution style by a man who apparently wanted to avenge the recent deaths of several African-Americans at the hands of police, underscoring the divisions in the city.
In an unheard of incident late Saturday, police officers literally turned their backs on the mayor when he arrived at the hospital where the bodies of the two officers, Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu, were taken.
The gesture, images of which were circulated Sunday, clearly shows the unrest among the policemen for what they consider to be a lack of support from De Blasio against accusations of police violence and the consequent protests that followed.
“The blood of two executed police officers is on the hands of Mayor de Blasio,” the police union group Police Benevolent Association (PBA) wrote on Twitter.
The association has criticised the mayor for failing to support the police and his backing of the protests, and also the controversy surrounding him teaching Dante — his son from his African-American wife — about the potential dangers of interacting with the police.
The PBA had earlier begun to collect the signatures of some 12,000 of its members, asking De Blasio not to attend their funerals in case they died in the line of duty. However, it is not known if Ramos and Liu had signed the petition.
Tension between the forces and the mayor has been brewing since his election campaign when De Blasio received support from individuals and organisations known to be “anti-police” among several sections of the police force.
The progressive mayor, who has a history of left wing activism, began several police reforms after assuming office in order to improve the force’s relations with different communities in the city – initiatives that did not always go down well with the officers.
Former New York state governor George Pataki also blames De Blasio’s anti-police stance for Saturday’s tragedy while former mayor Rudolph Giuliani too spoke along the same lines.
The perpetrator of the attack, Ismaiyl Brinsley, who had hours earlier shot his girlfriend near Baltimore, turned the gun on himself in the subway after killing the officers.
According to the police, Brinsley had a violent character and had 20 arrests in his police records. He had also been jailed between 2011 and 2013 for illegal possession of firearms.
He also suffered from mental illness and had tried to commit suicide in the past, according to New York police chief Robert Boyce.
Three hours before shooting the officers, Brinsley had uploaded a picture of his pistol on Instagram with a message reading, “They Take 1 Of Ours… Let’s Take 2 of Theirs #ShootThePolice #RIPErivGardner #RIPMikeBrown,” referring to the two recent cases of police killing African-Americans.
Meanwhile, the families of Garner and Brown criticised the killings of the policemen, while leaders of the recent protests against police brutality stressed that this incident could not be linked to their cause which was non-violent.