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Mayor: Interfaith Roundtable on Police-Community Relations 'Extraordinary'

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Cardinal Timothy Dolan on Wednesday hosted an interfaith roundtable to discuss police-community relations in the aftermath of Eric Garner's death that Mayor Bill de Blasio described as "extraordinary."

The mayor and First Lady Chirlane McCray joined a group of religious leaders and NYPD brass at Dolan's residence in Midtown.

De Blasio spoke about how rare it is for such a diverse group to come together with a single purpose in mind.

He said religious leaders can help the police integrate with all corners of the city.

"We've experienced a tragedy with the death of Eric Garner. But this is not about a single incident or being mired in the past. This is about a very purposeful and consistent path forward," De Blasio said.

"Religion in this great city is a cause of bringing people together. It's a bridge. It's a source of reconciliation and peace and unity," Dolan said.

"We have to have a mutual respect for the law, the police that when we enforce it, we do it lawfully, respectfully, consistently. And the public have a respect for the law that they obey it," said Police Commissioner William Bratton.

The closed-door meeting in Midtown comes a day after Staten Island District Attorney Dan Donovan announced he will ask a grand jury to consider criminal charges against the city police officer who put Eric Garner in an alleged chokehold last month.

Officer Daniel Pantaleo was caught on video taking Garner down while police were trying to arrest him for illegally selling cigarettes.

Garner later died, and the city medical examiner ruled his death a homicide.

Donovan says his decision to impanel a grand jury is based a thorough review by his office, and the ME's report.

Wednesday's meeting was the second roundtable discussion following the death of Eric Garner to focus on easing tensions between the NYPD and New Yorkers. Garner died after being put in a chokehold during an arrest on Staten Island last month.

The first roundtable occurred shortly after, and it may have unintentionally caused more friction. The Rev. Al Sharpton blasted the NYPD as he sat next to the mayor and his top brass.

This time, it was only praise and a pledge to reconcile communities.

"Let's count our blessings for a second. How many places in the world could something like this take place?" Dolan said.

"Yes, the problems still exist, but they will not be solved with rancor and hostility," Sharpton said.

The meeting gave leaders an opportunity to contrast reaction in the five boroughs to Garner's death and the protests occurring in Ferguson, Missouri, violence in response to the killing of an unarmed black teenager, Michael Brown.

"I thought about how different it was that we were going to sit in the cardinal's residence then what I saw in the streets of Ferguson," Sharpton said.

Sharpton said he plans to go forward with a march on Staten Island on Saturday.

Brown's family will also attend the march.

Meantime, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder visited Ferguson on Wednesday to take a closer look at the investigation.

Holder is going at the request of President Barack Obama.

In an op-ed piece for a St. Louis newspaper, Holder said he would personally meet with local leaders, FBI investigators and prosecutors from the Justice Department's Civil Rights division.

He also condemned the small number of looters and vandals in Ferguson, but said good policing requires officers to use appropriate force.

Holder's visit comes as a grand jury is expected to start hearing evidence as it weighs potential criminal charges against the officer who shot Brown to death on August 9.

On the streets of Ferguson Tuesday night, volunteers joined hands to serve as a buffer between protesters and police in an effort to keep things calm.

The protests remained peaceful until around midnight when tensions rose as police tried to remove some demonstrators.

Nearly 50 people were arrested.

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