NO JUSTICE: Staten Island grand jury refuses to indict in Eric Garner case

Herb Boyd | 12/4/2014, 3:49 p.m.
“How can anyone in the community have faith in the system now?” asked Vincent Warren, Center for Constitutional Rights executive ...
Screenshot of killing of Eric Garner Ramsey Orta

“We are dismayed at the grand jury’s decision in this case and the message that is being sent about the value of Black lives,” said Arva Rice, president and CEO of the New York Urban League. “While our city and country had made monumental strides, there is clearly more work that needs to be done to improve police community relations and ensure justice is equally dispensed regardless of race or class.”

Both Jeffries and Meeks expressed reservations about the president’s quest to seek funds for 50,000 body cameras for law enforcement officers. They said that video footage was amply available in the Garner case, and it did not bring an indictment.

“The video is living, breathing, probable cause that a crime occurred,” Jeffries stressed.

“First Ferguson, now Staten Island. The grand jury’s failure to indict sends the clear message that Black lives don’t matter. But they do. It’s bad enough that ‘broken windows’ policing over something as harmless as selling untaxed cigarettes led to this tragic killing. It’s even worse when the officer responsible—who was caught on tape using a prohibited chokehold, no less—is not held accountable. The problem isn’t one officer, though; it’s systemic. We need real reform of discredited ‘broken windows’ policing and of the NYPD more than ever.”

Local reaction to the abysmal no-indictment came swiftly.

While the elected officials voiced their complaints about the grand jury and its decision, hundreds took the streets of Manhattan, chanting “I can’t breathe! I can’t breathe!” Protestors marched from the Eric Garner vigil on Victory Boulevard on Staten Island down to the 120th Precinct, chanting, “I can’t breathe!” and the now obligatory “No justice! No peace!”

At his press conference, Mayor Bill de Blasio described this day as “a very painful day for all New Yorkers.”

“From Ferguson to New York City, ‘killer cops’ must suffer consequences,” said Charles Barron, state assemblyman-elect. “If this system can send a Black man to jail for killing dogs—and animal rights should be protected—then surely they should send white killer cops to jail for killing innocent Black civilians. I don’t know what good police body cameras will do, when the whole world saw Eric Garner get choked to death by an NYPD police officer on camera, and still there was no indictment.

Barron added, “New York City is a racial powder keg that is about to explode. One day there’s going to be real meaning applied to ‘No justice! No peace!’ Let’s keep the pressure on. Justice for Akai Gurley is next. Commissioner Bratton must go! He has blood on his hands!”

“Such news in 2014 is a shock to the conscience,” said former Mayor David Dinkins on the initial reports in July of the manner in which Garner was killed. “As we learn that there will be no charges against the individual responsible for placing Mr. Garner in the chokehold that resulted in his death, following the decision of no indictment of former officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson, Mo., two weeks ago, emotions are raw and families are fearful for what may lay ahead for anyone’s child when law enforcement is encountered.
These rulings should reinvigorate a vital and honest discussion on race and policing in America. This is a discussion in which we must all participate. As we all process statements and decisions with which we may disagree, I have faith that New Yorkers, indeed, all Americans, will find ways to communicate and peacefully by seeking out local community partners and organizations that support constructive engagement around important issues.”