New York City Police Commissioner Dermot Shea in February. Photo: Yana Paskova/Getty Images

New York City Police Commissioner Dermot Shea said in a public statement Sunday that he is "extremely proud" of the New York City Police Department's response to protests over the death of George Floyd Saturday night, writing: "What we saw in New York City last night and the night before was not about peaceful protest of any kind."

Why it matters: New York City residents captured several instances of police officers using excessive force against demonstrators. In one video, two NYPD SUVs are seen ramming into protesters who were blocking a road and throwing traffic cones at the vehicles.

  • In another video from protests on Friday night, an officer was recorded shoving a female protester to the ground. City Council Speaker Corey Johnson and New York State Sen. Jessica Ramos have called for assault charges against the officer, according to CBS New York.

What he's saying: "To the Members of the NYPD: What you’ve endured these last couple of days and nights—like much of 2020, so far—was unprecedented," Shea said. "In no small way, I want you to know that I’m extremely proud of the way you’ve comported yourselves in the face of such persistent danger disrespect, and denigration."

  • "What we saw in New York City last night and the night before was not about peaceful protest of any kind. It was not about civil disobedience. It was not about demonstrating against police brutality."
  • "What it was, quite frankly, was a mob bent solely on taking advantage of a moment in American history, to co-opt the cause of equality that we all must uphold, to intentionally inflict chaos, mayhem, and injury just for the sake of doing so."

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio also defended the NYPD in an address Saturday night. He called the video of NYPD vehicles ramming protestors "upsetting," but said that the protesters were wrong to surround the SUVs.

  • “It is inappropriate for protesters to surround a police vehicle and threaten police officers,” he said. “That’s wrong on its face and that hasn’t happened in the history of protests in this city.”
  • While he wished the officers had not driven into the crowd, de Blasio said he believes "they didn't start the situation," and that it was "started by a group of protesters converging on a police vehicle."

The big picture: Demonstrators set fire to police vehicles and clashed with officers at simultaneous marches that raged through all five boroughs on Saturday night, the New York Times reports.

  • More than 345 people were arrested, 33 officers injured and 47 police vehicles damaged or destroyed, with several of them set on fire.
  • De Blasio promised that any police officers who used unnecessary force throughout the protests will be held accountable. He also announced an independent inquiry led by the state attorney general’s office into how the police had handled protests on Friday night, according to the Times.

Go deeper ... Amnesty International: U.S. police must end militarized response to protests

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