A Night of Protests: Eric Garner

By Melissa Noel

Outrage. That’s what protesters across New York City expressed Wednesday evening after a Staten Island grand jury chose not to indict a police officer in the death of Eric Garner. At Times Square, Grand Central Terminal, the West Side Highway and elsewhere, people turned out in force.
They repeatedly chanted “I can’t breathe,” the last words uttered by Garner after being placed in an apparent chokehold during a July 17 arrest for the sale of untaxed cigarettes.
Many were in disbelief that witness testimony and the now infamous video of officer Daniel Pantaleo placing Garner in a chokehold, were not enough to charge him. Use of a chokehold is banned by the NYPD.
“I expected very little from the system already, but at this point what do they need, for someone to get murdered in front of a so-called grand jury for an indictment?” said Times Square protester Anton A., who chose not to give his last name.
The decision in this case came just over a week after a grand jury in Ferguson, Missouri, cleared another white police officer, Darren Wilson, of any wrongdoing in the shooting death of Michael Brown, an unarmed 18-year-old Black man.
“I felt frustration when I heard the decision,” said protester Roshard Bryant.
“As a Black man, it’s more personal. I don’t believe our lives are valued,” he said.
Even when moments of silence were observed by the hundreds of others like Bryant who gathered in Times Square, signs that read “Now who do you call when a cop kills”, “This stops today” and “Black lives matter” expressed their anger loud and clear.
Mayor Bill de Blasio highlighted those sentiments during remarks on Staten Island, saying, “we are dealing with centuries of racism that have brought us to this day” where people have to state and repeat phrases like “Black lives matter.” “It’s a phrase that should never have to be said,” the mayor said. “It should be self-evident.”
At National Action Network headquarters in Harlem, Eric Garner’s widow, Esaw Garner, said she did not accept an apology issued by officer Pantaleo following the grand jury’s decision.
“Hell, no,” Mrs. Garner said. “The time for remorse would have been when my husband was yelling to breathe. That would have been the time for him to show some type of remorse, or some type of care for another human being’s life.”
Eric Garner’s mother, Gwen Carr, expressed her shock at the grand jury’s decision during a press conference arranged by the Rev. Al Sharpton. “I don’t know what video they were looking at,” she said referring to the grand jury. “Evidently it wasn’t the same one that the rest of the world was looking at. How could we put our trust in the justice system when they fail us like this?”
The answer to that question was simple for Martha Leoñ.
“We can’t trust the system, the system is killing us,” she said. Leoñ, a Mexican American, attended protests with members of Ayotzinapa NYC, a group advocating for the return of 43 Mexican students missing since September.
Leoñ said it was imperative for people of all races and nationalities to come out and protest the injustice in the outcome of the Eric Garner case and raise awareness about others.
As the night went on, the crowds back in Times Square began moving toward Rockefeller Plaza, intending to disrupt the annual tree lighting.
“No justice, no tree,” many chanted as they made their way through the streets. Protesters made it up to 47th Street and 6th Avenue before being blocked by interlocking barricades and police.
Police Commissioner Bill Bratton reported at least 83 arrests citywide overnight, mainly for disorderly conduct.
Although Mayor de Blasio announced the start of a pilot program that would equip officers with body cameras to record encounters while on patrol, demonstrators yelled repeatedly “What would body cameras do? They will still kill you. ”
Eric Garner’s family believed that video of the arrest would have been enough to convince grand jurors that the case should be brought to trial.
The U.S. Department of Justice has confirmed plans for a federal investigation into the death of Eric Garner and whether or not his civil rights were violated.
More protests are planned in New York City on Thursday night and in other cities across the country. The Rev. Al Sharpton has announced plans for “a national march to deal with a national crisis.” The march is scheduled to take place in Washington, D.C. on Dec. 13.

Source: Voices of New York

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Posted by on Dec 16 2014. Filed under Community News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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