An organizer of the Million Youth March turned himself in on assault charges, while the police commissioner defended accusations from critics who likened officers to a "criminal gang" determined to provoke violence.

James Washington, 52, appeared at a precinct late Tuesday to face charges of throwing a brick and assaulting a police officer at Saturday's rally, police Lt. Rene Bonilla said.Earlier Tuesday, Police Commissioner Howard Safir called march organizer Khallid Abdul Muhammad a "hatemonger" who behaved "like a black Hitler."

The rally, attended by about 6,000 people in Harlem, was peace-ful until some in the crowd threw bottles and other debris as police took over the stage to enforce a court-ordered curfew.

Safir refused to discuss some police actions, such as why a police helicopter flew low over the participants at the end of the rally. He said no officers moved toward the stage until bricks, chairs and barriers were thrown at them.

Muhammad, the rally's featured speaker, had delivered a venomous speech filled with criticism of police, Jews and Mayor Rudolph Giuliani. Just before police moved in, he urged the crowd to use the officers' own weapons against them "if they so much as touch you."

Sixteen cops and five civilians were injured, and a Dallas man was arrested before order was restored.

Safir blamed Muhammad for the violence and accused of him of trying to incite a riot. Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau said his office will conduct a grand jury investigation.

In Washington, march coordinator Malik Zulu Shabazz called New York City police a "criminal gang" who incited the clash.

Safir angrily dismissed the criticism.

"The citizens of this city should be very proud of what their police department did, which is ensuring that a hatemonger who came here to cause trouble was not allowed to do that and the citizens of this city were protected, protected from people who wanted a riot and did not have one," he said.