The killing of two New York City police officers by an apparently deranged man Saturday has left the city facing “an hour of darkness,” black community leader Rev. Al Sharpton told a church audience in Harlem Sunday, and denounced the deaths, noting they are “hurting the cause” of justice for Eric Garner.
“That does not solve the problem of police brutality,” Sharpton said, speaking at the National Action Network headquarters in Harlem on Sunday morning. “If we go into an area where it’s an eye for an eye, then it is only a matter of who can out-pluck eyes, rather than who can make the system fair for everyone.”
Garner’s widow, Esaw, stood with Sharpton and expressed her sympathy for the families of officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos.
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“I know what it’s like to lose a loved one before the holidays,” said Garner’s widow, Esaw said at the church. “I would ask everyone that’s protesting with us to protest in a nonviolent way, my husband was not a violent man. We don’t want any violence connected to his name.”
Sharpton said he’s received several threatening phone calls since the officers were shot in the head and body as they sat in their patrol car in Bedford-Stuyvesant on Saturday afternoon. Sharpton played a voicemail that called him a racial slur and said to “stop killing innocent people” and “I’m going to get you.”
Sharpton said he would be turning over the voicemail to the FBI.
Police said the shooter, Ismaaiyl Brinsley, 28, traveled from Baltimore to Brooklyn to shoot the officers, and posted anti-police statements on social media about avenging the deaths of Eric Garner and Michael Brown. Brinsley died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound, police said.
“Those that try to misuse the names of the victims are not only wrong morally … they are hurting the cause of these families. And they are as insensitive to these families as those that oppose them,” Sharpton said.
“I know what it’s like to lose a loved one before the holidays,” Esaw Garner said. “I would ask everyone that’s protesting with us to protest in a nonviolent way, my husband was not a violent man. We don’t want any violence connected to his name.”
Sharpton and the Garner family did not answer reporters questions on whether the Garner protests would continue in the wake of the officer deaths.
In the afternoon, Sharpton gave a sermon at St. Luke’s Baptist Church in Harlem, surrounded by Advent candles and poinsettias. Sharpton called the killings “senseless” and vicious” and reiterating the movement isn’t against the police, but police brutality.
“There is no denying we are in an hour of darkness in this city,” Sharpton said.
He criticized the “scapegoaters” blaming the protesters and Mayor Bill de Blasio, saying Brinsley “probably didn’t even know the name of the mayor of New York.”
“In the next few days, we will see leaders that raise the city above the turbulence, or we will see those freaks that want to see a city rattle in the turbulence of the hour,” Sharpton said.
Sharpton also said he’d like collections from the service to be given to Liu and Ramos’s families.