NEW YORK — A Martin Luther King Jr. Day march that ended with 29 arrests and 11 injured police officers represented the "antithesis of what Martin Luther King stood for," New York City Police Commissioner Dermot Shea said Monday.
Shea said some of Monday's protesters were throwing bottles, destroying property and calling for the death of officers as they marched from Brooklyn to lower Manhattan. "People need to finally come down to the truth here and say whatever this is it certainly does not resemble a peaceful protest," he said on TV station New York 1.
The gathering started in Brooklyn as a celebration of King's legacy. Some people from that group then marched across the Brooklyn Bridge and later clashed with police in lower Manhattan.
Videos posted from the scene of the protest show dozens of helmeted officers trying to clear an area near City Hall.
Jordan Plaza, 20, told The New York Times that a relatively small number of protesters had spilled off the sidewalk and into the street when the police announced that they were obstructing the road and would be arrested.
"They weren't approaching the police in a violent manner," said Plaza, who said she happened upon the protest and joined on a whim. "Police randomly surged."
The protest and arrests came days after New York state Attorney General Letitia James sued the New York Police Department over their actions during demonstrations that followed George Floyd's killing last year.
Shea referred to the lawsuit as he defended the policing of Monday's protest.
"This isn't actions that are caused by police officers, so that's a news flash for the AG," the commissioner said. "This is actions caused by people that want to destroy our way of life and our city. And we're not going to let it happen."