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Mayor Defends Sharpton Amid Criticism in Wake of Eric Garner's Death

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TWC News: Mayor Defends Sharpton Amid Criticism in Wake of Eric Garner's Death
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Mayor Bill de Blasio is defending the Rev. Al Sharpton amid criticism the civil rights leader is not only upstaging the mayor but increasing tensions in the wake of Eric Garner's death.

The mayor was preparing New Yorkers for hurricane season, but Bill de Blasio's warning was overtaken by the storm surrounding Eric Garner's death last month.

Some question whether de Blasio's attempt to ease racial tension is doing the opposite, especially after a charged meeting Thursday at City Hall, where the Rev. Al Sharpton made it personal for the mayor.

"If Dante wasn't your son, he'd be a candidate for a chokehold, and we've got to deal with that reality," Sharpton said at the meeting.

A day later, out of eight questions the mayor got, seven had to do with Sharpton.

"We don't all have to agree on everything, but Rev. Sharpton clearly has pointed always in the direction of peaceful protest and the use of the democratic process to make change," de Blasio said. "He is someone who is certainly a personal friend, and someone I respect the advice of."

As has been the case for decades, others think Sharpton an unhelpful firebrand who crossed the line by mentioning Dante.

"I think it was outrageous, it's shameless, and shameful on Sharpton's part, but it's just as outrageous, shameful, and shameless and race-baiting on Mayor de Blasio's part," said Michael Meyers of the New York Civil Rights Coalition.

In an interview, Sharpton had no apologies, noting Dante's role in his dad's winning election.

"Dante did a stop-and-frisk reference in a campaign commercial," Sharpton said. "I'm not trying to get votes. I'm trying to get policy changed. I think it's absurd."

Sharpton also criticized the broken window policy, which has police going after low-level offenses. Garner was accused of selling loose, untaxed cigarettes.

Police Commissioner William Bratton said broken windows is central to keeping the city safe. De Blasio agreed, but also said, "Police officers have a wide range of options available to them. Arrest is not the only option."

As for Dante, the mayor said they talked.

"He understands," de Blasio said. "He happens to be in the public eye. It doesn't really affect him much. He has his own life."

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