Kelly and Williams debate the causes of post-vigil violence in Brooklyn
The New York Police Department commissioner and one of his leading elected critics are in a fight over what really prompted the violence Monday night after a vigil for a 16-year-old Brooklyn teenager shot and killed by police.
According to Ray Kelly's comments after a City Council budget hearing, there was a large crowd memorializing Kimani Gray, who was shot and killed on Saturday. A gun was recovered at the scene that may have belonged to Gray and "there is nothing to indicate that this shooting at this time was outside the guidelines."
From that larger crowd, according to Kelly, a smaller group, perhaps 30 or so people, split off. They attempted to steal a cash register from a Rite Aid. They assaulted a customer who tried to stop them. The group also hurled fruit at a local precinct and "trashed" a bodega.
Kelly said, "I don't see it related to the demonstration. ... But apparently people took it upon themselves to go in and trash the store, try to take the cash register, in some way shape or form. I don't think that has or should have any relationship to a peaceful demonstration."
Kelly visited the site of what he characterized as a disturbance by Church Avenue, near the 67th Precinct in Brooklyn. When asked why, Kelly said simply that he was "concerned about what was going on at that location. I have a lot of late hours that you may not know about."
After Kelly spoke to reporters, Councilman Jumaane Williams said Kelly was "belittling" the real problem, which is growing tension between poor and minority communities, and the police. Refusing to acknowledge last night's violence as a symptom of that problem will only lead to more violence, Williams warned.
"There was a great display of frustration," Williams told reporters.
Standing outside 250 Broadway, where today's budget hearing was held, Williams said, "We have been saying that something like this can happen. I'm surprised it hasn't happened sooner. And we know next time it's going to get worse if they don't come to grips with that."
Williams said this area lacks a community center and, more generally, economic opportunities for young people. He called for dramatic increases in funding, and for Kelly to visit the district with him.
In a statement last night, Williams said the mayor and police commissioner were ignoring the "root cause" of the violence, and "I fear this will be a long and bloody summer ahead."