As New Yorkers joined nationwide protests Saturday against police brutality, a video showed two NYPD SUVs accelerating and plowing through a crowd of people in Brooklyn — knocking some to the ground.
The video prompted widespread outrage and questions about the officers' actions.
Late Saturday night, Mayor Bill de Blasio, speaking for the first time since his city began burning that evening, placed blame on the protesters.
On Sunday, de Blasio promised an investigation from both the police department's internal affairs division as well as the city's corporate counsel and investigations department. But he also defended the overall response by the NYPD, who he said had come under "direct attacks."
"I saw people converging on the police vehicle. I saw people throwing things at the police vehicle," he said. "That is not peaceful protest. Let's not kid ourselves."
The video shows people pressed together in front of one police SUV, with a barricade between them and the vehicle. Some people throw items, including traffic cones and water bottles, as a second SUV drives up and plows into the crowd, pushing people.
The first SUV then speeds up, knocking several people to the ground. One man jumps onto its hood after being hit.
NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea said detectives would be working with prosecutors to identify people in the crowd and seek criminal charges.
"There are protests and there are mobs. I saw akin closer to a mob," he said. "A protest does not involve surrounding and ambushing a marked police car."
De Blasio also scolded NY1 reporter Gloria Pazmino, who asked how the officers' actions fit in with the department's promises to use de-escalation tactics over violence.
"If you were, Gloria, or anyone else was in that police vehicle surrounded by people," de Blasio said. "You would have had a really tough decision to make."
People on social media widely criticized de Blasio's response.
Apart from the crowd incident and others captured on video, he praised the police response. "We saw tremendous restraint overall from the NYPD,” he said. “I also saw some things that need to be done better.”
One viral video from Saturday showed an NYPD officer pulling a face mask off a protester and then pepper-spraying him. De Blasio said on Sunday he hadn't seen the video but that it would be investigated.
As for the officers who drove into the crowd, he said they could face discipline — depending on the findings of the investigation.
"We’ve got to work to make sure the vehicles don’t end up in that situation. That’s on us," he said. "It’s also on everyone else to not surround a vehicle and threaten the lives of our officers."