BROOKLYN (CN) — As over a week of daily protests sparked by the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis continued across New York City, Mayor Bill de Blasio was met with booing from demonstrators at a memorial march in Brooklyn on Thursday afternoon.
Before the mayor even spoke, a crowd of over a 1,000 chanted, “De Blasio, go home,” clapping to the beat as the mayor crossed the stage in Cadman Plaza park in downtown Brooklyn.
The memorial event’s organizer, the Rev. Kevin McCall, repeatedly urged the crowd to honor Floyd’s family by giving respect to the mayor as he and first lady Chirlane McCray approached the microphone, but many in the crowd booed furiously.
While de Blasio is white, his wife is black and a former speechwriter for New York City’s only black mayor, David Dinkins. McCray opened with a call and response of “Power to the people,” which only minimally broke the tension of the crowd toward the mayor.
“We have so much we need to do going forward, but we have the power,” said McCray. “Look at all of you, look at all of us.
“We are making a statement today,” she continued. “We are making a statement every day that we stand out and shout and protest and march. We have power we have — we didn’t even know we had. Black lives matter! Black lives matter! Black lives Matter!”
The crowd never really let down their torrent of jeers and chants as de Blasio took over, giving a speech that he rushed through in a couple minutes before quickly departing the demonstration.
“To everybody, here is what we must resolve: George Floyd cannot have been allowed to die in vain,” de Blasio urged.
“But let me tell something, for all of us who have not walked a mile in the shoes of the black community or communities of color, for all of us who know white privilege, we need to do more because we don’t even fully recognize the daily pain that the racism in this society causes. We need to do more,” he said.
“We will make peaceful change in this city once and for all,” the mayor said Thursday. “Keep fighting for that change. To the Floyd family, we stand with you. Black lives matter in New York City. Black lives need to matter in America,” he concluded.
New York Attorney General Letitia “Tish” James received a much warmer welcome from the crowd.
“You see, I pray that Gianna, George’s precious daughter, carries the loving memory of her father with her always and that she not be imbittered by the injustice has taken him away too soon, that she joins with all of the other daughters whose fathers were also killed by the hands and arms and knees and bullets of indifference,” James said.
“So to my young warriors and to the family, march until the stagnant intractable walls of racism come down,” she preached in her closing remarks.
“Walls that separate us must be crushed to ground by the forces of love and justice. So march family, march Terrence, march all of you, and march because when we march, we will see George on the other side of the mountain, amen,” she concluded, referring to George Floyd’s brother Terrence, who was in attendance.
New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams followed James, challenging the crowd to chant “I’m not OK!”
“So many of us haven’t had the time to heal from one video and then they keep coming and coming and coming and coming,” he said in one of the most fired up speeches of the memorial.
“I know we’re here for the brother George Floyd … but before there was Ahmaud Arbery, before there was Breonna Taylor, before there was Tamir Rice, before there was Eric Garner, we don’t have enough time for all the names,” Williams said.
“People came out of their house because a pandemic, led by inept leaders like this mayor and this governor caused tens of thousands of people to die and most of them are black and brown,” said Williams, who is second in line to the mayor.
New York for months has been the epicenter of the Covid-19 outbreak in the United States, but public health experts signed an open letter supporting the protests this week, saying racism and white supremacy are urgent public health issues.
Unrest sparked by the Minneapolis police killing of Floyd dates back only as far as Memorial Day, but New York’s Finest had been under pressure long before then regarding enforcement of social distancing measures.
Data released last month showed 90% of all those arrested and 82% of those issued summonses for violating social-distancing requirements were black or Hispanic.
The memorial concluded with a speech from Terrence Floyd, a Brooklyn native who said he’s proud of the protests but not of the destruction. “My brother wasn’t about that,” he said. “At the end of the day, my brother’s gone but the Floyd name still lives on.”
As Terrence Floyd stood in silence the podium for about a minute, one man in the crowd started chanting, “You are not alone,” and many in the audience joined him in unison.
Terrence Floyd worked the crowd into holding their hands in the air, the left in the peace sign and the right hand in a fist for justice.
For several hours following the memorial service, thousands of marchers peacefully walked across the nearby Brooklyn Bridge into Lower Manhattan demanding justice for George Floyd, taking over both the pedestrian space and the three-lane span for vehicle traffic.
De Blasio has faced scrutiny for his handling of the NYPD’s response to protests and looting across the city over the last week.
Governor Andrew Cuomo criticized the NYPD and de Blasio on Tuesday, and even mused hypothetically about how a governor could displace a mayor.
“I’m not happy with last night,” he said. “And the police did not do their job last night. But you have 38,000 NYPD. They have protected the city before in these situations. … They did not do it last night. “Stop the looting,” Cuomo added, going on to reference comments by President Donald Trump that cities should call up the National Guard to quell riots.
Thousands gathered in Minneapolis on Thursday for a memorial service for George Floyd, with mourners spread across two city blocks shouting protest chants, listening to a sermon from the Rev. Al Sharpton and clamoring for a look at visiting celebrities.