A video posted on social media on Saturday showed a New York Police Department SUV driving into a crowd of protesters, sparking outrage across the country. However, Mayor Bill de Blasio says that he sympathizes with the officers, who he says were placed in an “impossible” situation.
“I’m not gonna blame officers who are trying to deal with an absolutely impossible situation,” de Blasio said, according to the local CBS affiliate.
“The folks who were converging on that police car did the wrong thing to begin with and they created an untenable situation. I wish the officers had found a different approach. But let’s begin at the beginning. The protesters in that video did the wrong thing to surround them, surround that police car, period.”
“It’s inappropriate for protesters to surround a police vehicle and threaten police officers. That’s wrong on its face, and that hasn’t happened in the history of protests in the city,” he said.
The NYC mayor said that while he thought the video was “upsetting” and the situation would have been better handled in a different way, the protesters “started” by the crowd and not the officers.
The protesters lined up behind a barricade that was placed in front of the vehicle by demonstrators who were throwing orange traffic cones and other objects at the vehicle. A second NYPD SUV showed up next to the original car and slowly pushed into the crowd, as the video shows.
Shortly after, the second SUV jumped forward, pushing the barricade forward as the vehicle moved into the group, knocking several people over. It isn’t clear in the video if anyone was injured.
— Pierre G. (@pgarapon) May 31, 2020
But the video sparked a backlash from those arguing that police have used excessive force to quell angry crowds demonstrating in the wake of the death of George Floyd, a Minnesota man who died while in police custody. Video of the man’s death circulated widely on the internet after he was shown to become unresponsive while former officer Derek Chauvin knelt on his neck.
De Blasio argued that he wanted an investigation into the incident at the NYC protest to look at why the officers took the steps they took and what could be done differently in the future.
Critics called on de Blasio and other leaders to hold the officers accountable for using excessive force against protesters, arguing that a 6,000-pound vehicle shouldn’t be used as a weapon against a crowd of people.