- The Washington Times - Friday, June 30, 2017

Demonstrators advocating for the closure of Rikers Island jail crashed New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s workout session at his gym Friday.

The group reportedly chanted and held signs outside the Park Slope YMCA, but one protester confronted Mr. De Blasio inside, mid-workout, to criticize the city’s plan for closing the jail within the next 10 years — a timeline its opponents argue is too long.

Video of the encounter posted on Facebook by the CLOSErikers group showed Mr. de Blasio stretching on a yoga mat, telling activist Darren Mack that he wasn’t at the gym to engage in a political conversation.

“We’ll talk later, we’ll talk outside, but not here,” the mayor said before going back to his stretches.

A security guard then escorted Mr. Mack out of the gym. He later told reporters that he used a guest pass to get inside the YMCA and worked out for about 40 minutes before the encounter, the New York Post reported.

Mr. de Blasio never did talk to any of the protesters outside of the gym, the Post reported.

“The voices of people directly impacted by Rikers and our allies brought us to this point and it must be those same voices at the table discussing any plan to reach the finish line,” said Mr. Mack, a former Rikers inmate, DNAinfo.com reported. “We want transparency. We want inclusion. Anything less than that is not progressive. A 10-year plan is not progressive. This is a fundamental issue of justice here, and it would be fundamentally wrong to delay it that long.”

At a press conference unrelated to the protest, Mr. de Blasio responded to the protest, saying, “You can’t disrupt other people in the middle of their private time. That’s just obvious.”

“I’ve been going there now for three and a half years as mayor,” he said, DNAinfo.com reported. “It’s the first time that particular type of thing happened.”

A spokeswoman for the mayor’s office said the administration agreed with the demonstrators that Rikers should be closed “as soon as possible,” but that the population needs to be brought down first and the current plan is the most “realistic,” DNAinfo.com reported.

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