New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio sought to console the city following this weekend's shootings
He visited a memorial for the slain officers and held a moment of silence at City Hall
But critics continued to speak out, and protesters pledged to continue demonstrations
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio took on the role of the consoler on Tuesday in the wake of the weekend’s shooting of two New York police officers, following in the footsteps of many before him that have had to knit the city back together following tragedy.
De Blasio, accompanied by his wife, laid flowers at the memorial set up for officers Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu in Brooklyn near where they were shot as they sat in their patrol car.
Later Tuesday, de Blasio offered hugs to the city’s residents and a moment of silence for the two officers at City Hall, and urged the city to focus on the families of the slain officers and work to move forward.
“There’s a lot of pain right now. We have to work our way through that pain. We have to keep working to bring police and community closer together,” he said. “We have to work for that more perfect union. We have to put the divisions of the past behind us.”
The Tuesday show of sympathy marks a tightrope walk for the mayor as he navigates the simmering tensions of a police force that has eyed him warily from day one of his tenure — and now feels he’s contributed to the atmosphere that caused the weekend’s shooting — by showing support for protesters in the city.
The head of the city’s police union went so far as to say, following the shooting, that there’s blood on the hands of those who have supported the protesters and it “starts on the steps of city hall in the office of the mayor.” And police officers turned their backs on de Blasio this weekend as he entered the hospital where the bodies of the officers lay.
He also faces frustration from his progressive base as well, which helped elect him on a platform of police reform and has increased calls for action in the wake of the recent killings of two unarmed African-American men at the hands of white police officers.
Despite de Blasio’s attempts to focus on the victims and call to “put aside” protests and politics until after their funerals, tensions remained high Tuesday. Critics kept up the drumbeat against him, and protesters pledged to continue their planned demonstrations despite de Blasio’s request.
The ANSWER Coalition, a protest group in New York City, said de Blasio’s call for a hiatus to the protests was “misguided” and “meant to chill the expression of free speech rights.”
“Instead of remaining silent, it is all the more important for people around the country to stay active and demand an end to the epidemic of police violence that is ravaging black and Latino communities throughout the United States,” the statement said, noting that a protest planned for Tuesday evening would go on.
And former New York Gov. George Pataki, a Republican, accused de Blasio of “demonizing” the NYPD with his previous expression of support for protesters in the city, and called for him to apologize.
“He should meet with the police leaders and he should apologize. Apologize for not having their back when this crisis began and apologize for having helped create this climate where the best police department … in America is demonized as being an occupying force,” he told Newsmax.
Outside of New York City, however, many of the nation’s political leaders remained silent on the controversy.
President Barack Obama issued a statement this weekend via the White House press office and called the Philadelphia and New York police commissioners, but has yet to appear on camera to address the situation. On Tuesday, he went vacation round of golf.
White House spokesman Eric Schultz said on Tuesday Obama had asked Vice President Joe Biden to attend Saturday’s service for officer Ramos.
“The President … is grateful that the vice president and Jill Biden will be traveling to New York City to attend the service on Saturday,” he said.
Republicans largely avoided the issue as well. Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, who’s been a leading voice in the GOP pushing for criminal justice reform and the demilitarization of the police, took to Twitter to celebrate Festivus on Tuesday, but made no mention of the shooting.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, another expected presidential contender, dodged a question on whether de Blasio was to blame for an anti-police atmosphere in New York City, saying in an interview it’s not the time for politics.
CNN’s Kevin Liptak contributed to this report