Supporters of the New York Police Department have not called off a pro-cop rally scheduled for Friday despite organizers acknowledging that “there could be backlash.” The “Thank You NYPD” Facebook page is promoting the rally to counter mass protests in memory of the black Staten Island man who was killed by a white police officer this summer.
Nearly 1,000 Facebook users said they would be attending the “#ThankYouNYPD Rally” set for 5 p.m. Friday in City Hall Park in Lower Manhattan. While some have interpreted the rally as being in support of Daniel Pantaleo, the white police officer who was not charged in the death of Eric Garner by a grand jury last month, the Facebook group did not characterize it that way. The event description on Facebook reads, “Thank you to the BRAVE women and men who keep the streets of New York safe and risk their lives doing so!” The page is filled with examples of police officers who help the people they serve.
The event was not endorsed by the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, a New York City police union, but the group does “appreciate all of our support for the NYPD,” the Facebook page said in a message on Monday about the pro-cop rally.
But confusing the issue, the message continued, “With that said, I will heavily advise for your safety to cancel/postpone the rally. I CANNOT FORCE YOU TO DO THIS SO THE DECISION IS COMPLETELY UP TO YOU, if you do plan to attend (I've been receiving a lot of feedback that people will be gathering regardless) there could be backlash, so be safe.” A lively debate followed in comments.
The pro-cop rally has angered groups protesting against what they view as racial injustice in the death of Garner, who was put in a chokehold by Pantaleo and said “I can’t breathe” 11 times shortly before his death in July. The death was ruled a homicide by the medical examiner, but a grand jury declined to charge Pantaleo in the incident.
A counter-rally, dubbed “Shut the NYPD Down,” was scheduled to kick off at the same time as the pro-cop rally and take place nearby, at New York City Hall. More than 500 Facebook users said they would participate in that protest.
Jose LaSalle, the event’s organizer, said protesters supporting Garner and Mike Brown, the unarmed black teen from Ferguson, Missouri, who was shot and killed by white police Officer Darren Wilson in August, “will not be silent or silenced.” Like Pantaleo, Wilson was also not indicted.
“To have any pro-cop rally when the people have been denied justice in the case of Eric Garner and Mike Brown is an attack on all those that have been victimized by the militarized police department,” LaSalle wrote about the event on Facebook. "I believe that everyone has the right to express their belief in any manner they want, but not on the blood of our stolen love[d] ones. Police terrorizes [sic] people around the world and murder people with impunity. We the people must send police and those that support killer cops a message!”