BY LUIS GRONDA
A Staten Island jury voted on Wednesday to not bring Police Officer Daniel Pantaleo to trial for the death of Eric Garner.
Garner, who was 43, died on July 17 as a result of a chokehold applied to his neck by Pantaleo. Garner was approached by police for selling loose cigarettes and the situation escalated when the officers believed Garner was resisting arrest.
Following the announcement of the decision, people in New York and in other parts of the country took to the streets to protest their displeasure with the decision.
A crowd, including members of Garner’s family, gathered outside the store in Staten Island where Garner was killed. Some protestors reportedly threw garbage onto the street where he was killed. The Garner family pleaded with people to protest peacefully.
Later on Wednesday, thousands of people marched in several parts of Manhattan to protest the decision. They gathered at major areas such as Times Square and Union Square and walked up and down the Borough. They staged “die ins” at major highways and bridges, such as the West Side Highway, the Queensboro and Brooklyn Bridges, shutting down traffic to cars for a period of time. In a “die in,” demonstrators lay on the ground in protest of Black men like Garner and Michael Brown losing their lives.
While there was no reported violence against police at the protests, the NYPD reportedly made about 80 arrests related to the protest, mostly for disorderly conduct.
Milan Taylor, who heads the Rockaway Youth Task Force, a predominantly Black and Latino youth organization, was present at the protests in Manhattan on Wednesday night. He said he stayed in the Union Square area for a brief time.
Taylor called the protests “very emotional,” saying it was a great feeling to see people of many different races come together to express their dismay for the decision.
He said that there is no simple answer for how to fix this problem, but one way to start is community policing. He believes that officers should patrol the neighborhoods that they are from so they feel more comfortable in their surroundings and, in turn, residents can feel more comfortable with them.
“This is an issue that’s going to be fixed if we come together as humans, not through legislation,” Taylor said.
The group will host a youth town hall next week in Rockaway to give young people of color a chance to discuss the issue. Taylor said the voices of young men and women of color go often unheard, even though issues like the Garner decision affect them just as much.
“We want to provide a safe environment for young people to express themselves,” he said.
The St. John’s University chapter of the NAACP also held a “die-in” on Thursday.
Mayor Bill de Blasio called it a “deeply emotional day” for the Garner family and all of New York.
“Today’s outcome is one that many in our city did not want. Yet New York City owns a proud and powerful tradition of expressing ourselves through non-violent protest. We trust that those unhappy with today’s grand jury decision will make their views known in the same peaceful, constructive way,” he said. “We all agree that demonstrations and free speech are valuable contributions to debate, and that violence and disorder are not only wrong – but hurt the critically important goals we are trying to achieve together.”
Councilman Donovan Richards (D-Laurelton) said that injustice against people of color is still apparent in this day and age.
“It is with a heavy heart and sincere disappointment that I acknowledge once more that our judicial system has failed to administer justice on behalf of those most vulnerable. It is imperative now for the communities of color and our allies to collectively voice our concerns on excessive policing and work diligently to enact systemic change,” he said.
Councilman I. Daneek Miller (D-St Albans) said he was “disappointed, appalled and ashamed” by the decision.
“It appears in this case, as in the most recent case of Michael Brown, that the process has failed us. And for that reason, I assure you that the process is not over and I will continue to stand with those who remain to fight for the justice that is deserved by the mother, father, wife and children of Eric Garner,” Miller said.
Reach Reporter Luis Gronda at (718) 357-7400, Ext. 127, firstname.lastname@example.org, or @luisgronda.