NYC officials blame protest violence on anarchists

New York City leaders say small groups of people have turned peaceful protests into heated clashes with police.

Officials across the country believe outside agitators are hijacking peaceful protests. Now law enforcement in NYC want to know who they are to stop the mayhem.

The NYPD believes well-organized groups of agitators have infiltrated protests in NYC – moving gasoline, rocks and bottles via bicycle and scouting locations unprotected by police for vandalism.

Communicating through encrypted apps, these small groups are scouting ahead, directing protesters to unprotected police cars to set them ablaze and vandalize select stores with corporate ties.

Deputy Commissioner John Miller said bicycle scouts move ahead of protests to determine where police were and where they were not to direct breakaway groups to commit vandalism.

Earlier Sunday morning, Mayor Bill de Blasio also blamed much of the violence on a small group of well-organized “anarchists.”

“People who came to do violence in a systemic, organized fashion, that is a different reality we have to grapple with,” de Blasio said.

The mayor said the feel of protests at times right now is like nothing he’s ever witnessed in a city that has seen its share of civil disobedience.

Public Advocate Jumaane Williams believes how protests are organized should come from those effected by the injustice.

And he says that’s not happening.

“Very often we are seeing people who are not from the community making decisions to do things and not to do things and that shouldn’t be,” Williams said.

Since Friday, police have arrested hundreds of protesters, and roughly 20 percent of those taken into custody Friday night live outside of the city — including a woman who threw a Molotov cocktail at police in Brooklyn.

On Saturday as folks gathered on Staten Island and in Harlem, officials say, once again the anarchists showed up.

“Both went overwhelmingly well, but we quickly identified a group within that, that used the 125th Street peaceful demonstration, I would liken it to hijacking a peaceful demonstration,” NYC Police Commissioner Dermot Shea said.

The mayor promises a full investigation into how police handled some of the protesters.

Of the 768 people arrested so far, one out of seven are not from NYC. Those out-of-towners hail from Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Iowa, Nevada, Virginia, Maryland, Texas, even St. Paul, Minnesota.

And while the mayor welcomes those from other parts of the country, he says he will not tolerate the actions of a few.

“We have the evidence, what they said was the purpose of their demonstrations, the kinds of weapons they brought with them, they were seeking to do violence and someone seeking to do violence, I do not have any sympathy for,” De Blasio said.

ABC 7 New York