Bill de Blasio, mayor of New York City, has sparked much controversy in the wake of the assassinations of two police officers on December 20, 2014, inspiring a group of interfaith clergy to organize a prayer vigil to pray for a peaceful resolution to the mayor’s predicament. Similar prayer vigils took place in honor of the slain officers shortly after Christmas. However, public displays of police disdain for de Blasio’s handling of racial issues and police support have fanned the flames of contention high. Therefore, the group plans to try to alleviate tension by turning to prayer rather than bitterness and spite in hopes that the situation can resolve without further violence.
The Rev. Herbert Daughtry who pastors the House of the Lord Pentecostal Church in Brooklyn is heading up the prayer vigil to bring inspiration and healing to the toxic predicament that exists between Mayor de Blasio and the police. The dissension escalated with the revenge killing of NYPD officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos while sitting in their police cruiser just days before Christmas. The shooter had posted statements on social media saying that he wanted to avenge the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner by killing officers since the grand juries chose not to indict the police responsible, causing nationwide protest and racial unrest.
De Blasio angered the NYPD, according to Patrick Lynch, president of the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, with statements that he has warned his son who is biracial to be careful around the police. He has infuriated leaders of the police union by expressing empathy with those who criticize the police for abusive tactics. The atmosphere is charged with tension as Mayor de Blasio’s allies clash with the police and their supporters who have engaged in a work slowdown in an ongoing protest that has lasted over a month. At the memorial services for both slain officers, many of the officers present turned their backs to de Blasio as he gave his eulogies. One officer questioned why they should respect the mayor when they did not get any respect from him. After the incident at Ramos’ funeral, Bill Bratton the NYPD Commissioner requested that the stunt not be repeated, but not everyone took it to heart, undoubtedly exacerbating the pain of Liu’s bride of only two months, Pei Xia Chen, who was understandably distraught as she spoke to the assembly of mourners, declaring that he was her soul mate and hero.
The Revs. Daughtry and Al Sharpton along with Bishop Orlando Findlayter are organizing the prayer vigil to pray for the mayor and his family to find a way out of the volatile predicament and lead the way to peace with the police and others. They plan to ask that God give Mayor de Blasio wisdom, courage, strength and perseverance so that under his leadership, New York City may once again know peace, prosperity and goodwill and see justice done. The prayer vigil will be held near City Hall on Tuesday in hopes that the prayer will inspire de Blasio, the police and the public to rise above their bickering and find common ground that leads to reconciliation and unity.
By Tamara Christine Van Hooser