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New York City police union campaigns to keep mayor away from funerals

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New York City Democratic mayoral candidate Bill de Blasio with his family (AFP)

New York’s police union is showing its displeasure with Mayor Bill de Blasio and the head of the city council by starting a campaign to keep the two politicians away from funerals of fallen officers.

The campaign follows harsh criticism of de Blasio by Patrick Lynch, the head of the union, who said the mayor had failed to support the police after a grand jury decided against indicting a white officer in the chokehold death of Eric Garner.

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Since the grand jury decision on Dec. 3, protesters have taken to New York streets to vent their anger over Garner’s death in July and to call for reforms in how police use force.

New York City Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association posted a form on its website, for members to sign, that requests that de Blasio and City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito keep away from funeral services should an officer die in the line of duty.

The mayor and other senior city officials traditionally attend the funerals of fallen officers.

The form, entitled “Don’t Insult My Sacrifice,” accused the pair of “consistent refusal to show police officers the support and respect they deserve.”

In response, de Blasio and Mark-Viverito released a joint statement saying the union’s campaign was divisive. “Incendiary rhetoric like this serves only to divide the city, and New Yorkers reject these tactics,” local media quoted them as saying in the statement.

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De Blasio has made it clear that he is concerned by Garner’s death and how police treat African-Americans in general. Immediately after the grand jury’s decision in the Garner case, the mayor said he had warned his bi-racial son Dante to take special caution in any dealings with police officers.

On Saturday night, following an incident during which police said two officers were assaulted by protesters, the mayor condemned the violence which he said marked “an ugly and unacceptable departure from the demonstrations thus far.”

“Those who reject peaceful protest and provoke violence can expect immediate arrest and prosecution,” de Blasio warned.

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Largely peaceful protests have taken place nightly in major U.S. cities since a grand jury returned a no indictment decision after a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, shot and killed Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager, in August. The protests have intensified since the decision on the Garner case and other police shootings in New York and Cleveland.

(Additional reporting by Brendan O’Brien in Milwaukee; Editing by Susan Fenton)

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