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Petition to impeach Bill de Blasio begun last year garners new support in wake of riots

A petition to impeach the mayor of New York City, Bill de Blasio, is gathering fresh steam 10 months after it was first started as criticism of his handling of the protests mounts.

De Blasio, the 59-year-old leader of America's largest city, has come under strong criticism for his handling of the protests which have been happening since Thursday,in response to the killing of George Floyd.

Now a petition begun in July 2019, while de Blasio was running for president, has resurfaced and is gaining momentum.

A change.org petition, started in July 2019 to impeach de Blasio, has new energy amid protests

De Blasio, pictured on Tuesday speaking to the press, has been widely criticized for his handling of the protests. His response has been attacked as flip-flopping and indecisive

An additional 25,000 people had signed it on Wednesday morning compared to the night before.

Now more than 85,000 people are calling for his impeachment. 

'Mayor Bill de Blasio is destroying New York City,' the petition's author, going under the name NYPD New York, wrote. 

'We cannot have him continue as mayor for the next two years. The people of NY want change, and now is the time to act before it becomes any worse. 

'This is not about being conservative, left, etc. 

'This is about radical politics that are harming the city and being neglectful of New Yorkers.' 

The petition is merely symbolic - de Blasio will not be impeached as he is term-limited and will complete his term at the end of 2021.

De Blasio spokeswoman Freddi Goldstein said that he was unperturbed by the petition.

'The mayor is focused on keeping New Yorkers safe and reopening the city — not this nonsense that doesn't represent the values of this city,' she said.

The mayor has faced a barrage of criticism, however, for his handling of the crisis.

On Tuesday de Blasio visited the Bronx to see some of the aftermath of the looting for himself

De Blasio visited stores on Burnside Avenue in the Bronx which were targeted by rioters

The mayor is seen speaking to business owners in the district, which was wracked by violence

While he was quick to denounce the killing of Floyd, saying that the officers involved should face criminal charges, he was slower to respond to the protests, offering no plan or action to quell the tensions. 

When a police patrol car plowed into a group of protesters in Brooklyn on Saturday, he initially defended the officers, saying on Sunday that the situation 'was created by a group of protesters blocking and surrounding a police vehicle, a tactic that we had seen before in the last few days, a tactic that can be very, very dangerous to everyone involved.'

He added: 'And we've seen direct attacks on police officers, including in their vehicles.'

The following day, after it emerged that his daughter Chiara, 25, had been arrested overnight, he changed his tune and said the police had been heavy-handed.

As news of Chiara's arrest was reported, the Sergeant's Benevolent Association, a law enforcement union that frequently spars with the mayor, tweeted a photo of the arrest record, which also revealed personal details about the her.

Twitter quickly removed the tweet because it violated the social media's company's rules. 

The mayor was critical of the union, which has often accused him of not siding with police officers.

'The SBA did something unconscionable and it's not just cause it's my daughter,' de Blasio said. 

'They do this all the time with people's privacy. This is another one of the things that has to change. Look, police unions could be part of the change and the improvement in the city and this country.'

He said he was proud of his daughter, adding: 'I admire that she was out there trying to change something that she thought was unjust and doing it in a peaceful manner.' 

Police on Tuesday night arrest a man in New York City during the protests

A group are arrested in New York on suspicion of looting in Manhattan on Tuesday night

Names are taken of a group of people arrested during protests in New York on Tuesday

By Monday de Blasio was even more critical of the force.

'There are some who do not belong in this job,' he said. 

'And there are some that use violence when they shouldn't. There are some that are disrespectful to the people they serve. There are some that harbor racism in their hearts. 

'These people should not be in the police force. And it's our job to get them out.' 

On Tuesday, after another night of rioting, Andrew Cuomo, the governor of New York and a long-time adversary of the mayor, derided de Blasio's response.  

'I am disappointed and outraged in what happened in New York City last night,' Cuomo said. 

'The police in New York City were not effective at doing their job last night. Period. They have to do a better job.'

Cuomo has put state police and 13,000 members of the National Guard on standby and even mused about invoking his statutory power to remove the mayor.

De Blasio, at a tense news conference during which he snapped at reporters and called on local leaders to take a more active role in the protests, forcefully denounced the idea of allowing organized troops onto city streets, arguing their presence would only ratchet up tensions and heighten the chaos he is trying to tamp down.

'Someone needs a history lesson: When outside armed forces go into communities, no good comes of it,' he said.

Police block protesters from exiting the Manhattan Bridge in New York on Tuesday night

A man is arrested in New York for flouting the 8pm curfew, which came into effect on Tuesday

Dermot Shea, commissioner of the NYPD, came to de Blasio's defense and criticized Cuomo for his words.

'I can tell you definitively that he has the backs of the men and women of this police department,' Shea said. 

'And again, what we need is probably less press conferences by many people and more support and more coming out and making difficult decisions that may not be the most popular.' 

That has done little to help the embattled mayor, however, whose flip-flopping on his response to the protests and seeming lack of leadership has angered New Yorkers.

The city's residents were already deeply unimpressed with his performance -  a March poll by conducted online by Change Research, commissioned by national progressive organization Arena, gave him an approval rating of only 40 per cent, with 31 per cent saying he was doing a poor job during the COVID-19 crisis.

De Blasio's tweets were greeted with a torrent of responses reading: 'Resign.' 

Rudy Giuliani, his predecessor as mayor, also called on de Blasio to step down - something highly unlikely to happen.

Rudy Giuliani, mayor of New York from 1994-2001, now serves as Donald Trump's lawyer

Twitter was flooded with calls for de Blasio to resign for the handling of the protests

De Blasio's tweets were greeted with a torrent of scorn and abuse, and calls for him to resign

On Tuesday night police stopped protesters exiting the Manhattan Bridge and sent them back

Memes urging de Blasio to step down have proliferated - something the mayor will ignore

De Blasio has been widely unpopular in New York for some time, despite being elected twice

De Blasio's unpopularity is not new. 

His track record is certainly not all bad, however.

He kept his campaign promise to provide universal free pre-K schooling for the city's 70,000 four-year-olds, expanded paid sick leave and oversaw the city's increase in the minimum wage to $15 an hour.  

New York's economy is strong and crime rates are low, although homelessness remains a problem.

He was re-elected for a second term in 2017 with 67 per cent of the vote.  

He has also long had a strained relationship with the police, dating back to his campaign when he pledged to reform the city's stop-and-frisk practices, which the police credited for a decrease in crime but detractors said was institutionalized racial profiling. 

In July 2014 he was confronted with the first major challenge of his term, when Eric Garner was killed by a policeman on Staten Island. 

Daniel Pantaleo, who killed Garner in a chokehold, remains a New York police officer. The state of New York did not charge him, and the Department of Justice investigated the case and declined to bring charges. 

De Blasio says it is a matter for the NYPD.

Two police officers were murdered in December 2014 in response to the death of Garner - the first officers to die in the line of duty since 2011. 

Police turned their backs on de Blasio at the Brooklyn hospital where the bodies were being kept. Many more echoed the gesture at Wenjian Liu's funeral the following weekend. 

Law enforcement officers stand, with some turning their backs, as Bill de Blasio speaks on a monitor outside the funeral for NYPD officer Wenjian Liu in January 2015

Liu died in a Dec 2014 ambush after the death of Eric Garner. The gunman then killed himself

In February this year, when police were shot at in the Bronx, de Blasio tweeted his outrage at the violence — claiming the shootings were an attack not only on police but 'on ALL New Yorkers and everything we believe in'.

The police union, the Sergeants Benevolent Association, replied by 'declaring war'. 

'Mayor DeBlasio, the members of the NYPD are declaring war on you!' the SBA tweeted.

'We do not respect you, DO NOT visit us in hospitals. 

'You sold the NYPD to the vile creatures, the 1% who hate cops but vote for you. NYPD cops have been assassinated because of you. 

'This isn't over, Game on!'

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