Thousands of people marched through the streets from New York City to San Francisco for a second straight night following the grand jury decision not to indict a white New York City police officer, Daniel Pantaleo, on criminal charges in the chokehold death of an unarmed black man, Eric Garner.
Protesters of all colors blocked traffic, staged “die-ins” and chanted slogans such as “black lives matter.” They gathered near the Holland Tunnel, the Manhattan Bridge and on the Westside Highway, temporarily shutting them down. The NYPD said it arrested 223 people on Thursday night. More protests are planned for tonight.
Eric Garner’s Wife Rejects Cops Condolences: “Hell No”
After the grand jury decision not to indict him, Pantaleo released the following statement: “I became a police officer to help people and to protect those who can’t protect themselves. It is never my intention to harm anyone and I feel very bad about the death of Mr. Garner. My family and I include him and his family in our prayers and I hope that they will accept my personal condolences for their loss.”
Garner’s widow, Esaw Garner, rejected Pantaleo’s condolences telling a news conference, “Hell no! The time for remorse would have been when my husband was yelling to breathe. That would have been time for him to show some type of remorse, or some type of care for another human being’s life.”
Bill de Blasio: “Centuries of Racism… Have Brought us to This day”
Within hours of the verdict, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio reacted somberly to the news at a press conference and said for him and his wife, this case was personal. “I couldn’t help but immediately think what it would mean to me to lose Dante. Life would never be the same for me after,” de Blasio said. “Chirlane and I have had to talk to Dante for years about the dangers that he may face,” he added. “We’re not just dealing with a problem in 2014, we’re not dealing with years of racism leading up to it, or decades of racism – we are dealing with centuries of racism that have brought us to this day,” he said. “That is how profound the crisis is. And that is how fundamental the task at hand is, to turn from that history and to make a change that is profound and lasting.”
President Obama: “This Is an American Problem”
Speaking from Washington after the decision, the president said that the death of Garner highlights the need to improve relationships with law enforcement and communities of color. “We are not going to let up until we see a strengthening of the trust and a strengthening of the accountability between our communities and law enforcement,” Obama said. “Regardless of race, region, this is an American problem. It’s not just a black problem, or a brown problem … when anybody in this country isn’t being treated equal under the law that’s a problem and it’s my job as president to help solve it.” Last night, Attorney General Eric Holder announced that the Justice Department will launch a federal civil rights investigation on Garner’s death.
More Protests Planned
Some groups in New York have said they will protest for a third night on Friday, and the Rev. Al Sharpton is organizing a “national march against police violence,” on December 13, 2014 in Washington, DC.
On Facebook: Sadness, Anger, Disgust
We received over 1,600 comments on our Facebook page, with most expressing disappointment with the grand jury decision. The most popular comment came from Joelle Morrison, a resident of Staten Island. “I am not surprised, but I am very sad. An officer of the law, using a banned chokehold, kills a man accused of selling loose cigarettes and faces no consequences.” Many said that the video evidence in this case made the lack of an indictment even more painful than in the Michael Brown case. Chip Baker from Little Rock, Arkansas wrote: “This one is worse than Ferguson. There’s no dispute about what happened to this man.”
The fact that Pantaleo was not indicted despite video evidence of him putting Garner in a chokehold, led many to comment that body cameras on police officers won’t make any difference. Daniel Schwartz, from Fresno, California, writes: “Those Obama cams won’t make much difference at all with rulings like this,” referring to the president’s plans announced this week to make 50,000 body cameras available to police departments across the country. Constance Cervasio Young of Bloomfield, New Jersey, believes that the cameras are just “a placebo” for the real ailments we face. “Strong vetting, psychological testing and intense training with a no-tolerance policy needs to be implemented in police training,” she wrote.
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