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Sunday, 4 January 2015

Police turn backs on NYC mayor at officer's funeral.............

NEW YORK: New York City police turned out in their thousands on Sunday for the funeral of the second of two officers murdered last month, but in a sign of persistent tensions with Mayor Bill de Blasio, some turned their backs on a screen showing him giving a eulogy. 

Politicians, police leaders and other mourners joined family members inside a Brooklyn funeral home to honor Wenjian Liu, who was killed in an ambush that led to accusations the mayor had contributed to an anti-police climate. 

Outside, thousands of blue-uniformed officers stood in silence. Some turned away from the screen showing de Blasio when he began delivering a eulogy that included an appeal for reconciliation. 

City Police Commissioner Bill Bratton had appealed for officers to show grief not grievances at the funeral. The back-turning gesture has become symbolic of the anger many officers feel for the mayor over what they see as his failure to support them during a wave of anti-police protests. 

Liu, 32, and Rafael Ramos, 40, were ambushed and fatally shot on Dec. 20 by a killer who said he wanted to avenge the deaths of two unarmed black men this summer in encounters with white officers. 

The men's deaths in Ferguson, Missouri, and New York City, and decisions by grand juries in November and December not to charge the police officers involved, triggered weeks of protests in those cities and around the country against police treatment of African-Americans and other minorities. 

"New York has been from its earliest days a most tolerant of cities ... but there have always been times when that harmony has been challenged," de Blasio said at Liu's funeral, one of the largest in NYPD history. 

"Let us rededicate ourselves to those great New York traditions of mutual understanding and living in harmony." 

The crowd that turned out to honor Liu, believed to be the New York Police Department's first Chinese-American officer killed in the line of duty, appeared nearly equal to the estimated 25,000 who came to Ramos' funeral. 

Liu's wife paid a tearful tribute to the officer as a devoted husband and son. "Wenjian is my hero," said Pei Xia Chen. "We can always count on him." 

Later, as pall bearers carried the casket draped in the NYPD flag to the hearse, the throng of police stood at attention while helicopters flew at low altitude over mourners in a maneuver known as a "missing man formation," an NYPD tradition. 

Silent protests against the Mayor 

While a majority of the officers in the street outside the funeral home faced toward de Blasio when he delivered his eulogy, especially in the front ranks, scores of officers in the surrounding blocks were seen turning away, much like at last week's services for Ramos. 

Standing outside the funeral home after the ceremony, Patrick Lynch, the head of the largest police union, said officers were going through a difficult, emotional time. 

"They feel that City Hall has turned their back on them and they have a right to have their opinion heard and they did it respectfully in the street, not inside the church," said Lynch. The union leader had said immediately after the ambush on Liu and Ramos that the mayor contributed to the political climate that led to their deaths. 

De Blasio offered qualified support for protesters last month after the grand jury decision not to charge the white officer involved in the chokehold death of Eric Garner in the New York borough of Staten Island during an arrest attempt. The mayor said he had talked to his bi-racial son, Dante, about being wary in dealing with police. 

Relations between the police and de Blasio had begun to fray before that. During his 2013 campaign for office, the mayor criticized some NYPD tactics, including a "stop-and-frisk" policy that critics said was used to harass African-Americans and other minority groups. 

Many of the tens of thousands of mourners pressed against the sidewalk outside Sunday's services were Asian. 

Caiyao Chen, 32, who moved to the United States from China in 2000, said he didn't know the slain officer but he said he was particularly saddened because Liu was his parents' only son. 

"In Chinese tradition, the son carries the blood of the family," he said. "The family is broken now."