Under-fire New York mayor booed at George Floyd vigil

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio and his wife Chirlane McCray attend a memorial for George Floyd on June 4, 2020, in New York (AFP Photo/ANGELA WEISS)

New York (AFP) - New York's mayor was widely booed Thursday during a vigil for George Floyd, an unarmed African American killed by police, after the official defended heavy handed policing of protesters defying the city's curfew.

Hundreds of mourners jeered over Bill de Blasio's brief remarks at the Brooklyn service following a night in which videos circulating online showed police officers using batons on peaceful demonstrators.

De Blasio told reporters he had not seen the footage but defended how the curfew was being enforced, saying that the NYPD had "overall" shown "a lot of restraint."

The mayor said: "In the context of crisis, in the context of curfew, there is a point where enough is enough.

"If officers say now is the point we need you to go home, it's time to go home."

At the vigil, demonstrators among the several thousand in attendance chanted, "De Blasio go home!" and "Vote them out!" The mayor left shortly afterwards.

The death of Floyd in Minneapolis last week unleashed outrage across the United States, with New York among dozens of cities seeing massive protests.

Floyd stopped breathing when a white police officer knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes during an arrest for a non-violent suspected offence.

Demonstrations earlier this week turned violent, with widespread looting, leading de Blasio to impose New York's first curfew since World War II. It runs for the next four nights.

The mayor is facing the biggest crisis of his leadership as the city still reels from the coronavirus crisis that has killed 21,000 New Yorkers.

He has been criticized for supporting the police's tactics but also for not preventing the looting of upmarket stores that rocked Manhattan neighborhoods on Sunday and Monday.

A change.org petition launched last year calling for the removal of de Blasio has gained fresh impetus this week and now has around 110,000 signatures.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, who is known to have a rocky relationship with de Blasio, mentioned on Tuesday that he has the power to "displace" the mayor.

Elsewhere, around 400 current and former members of de Blasio's administration have signed an open letter slamming him for his refusal to condemn police "brutality" during the protests.

On Saturday, a video showed a police car driving into demonstrators in Brooklyn.

De Blasio, 59, hoped to be the Democratic Party's presidential nominee for November's election but his campaign last year failed to garner much support.