Several groups and elected officials are weighing in on the lack of indictment in the killing of Eric Garner. A grand jury made its decision on Wednesday. Here are statements about the decision.
President Barack Obama
“This is an issue we’ve been dealing with for too long and it’s time for us to make more progress than we’ve made I’m absolutely committed as president of the United States to making sure that we have a country in which everyone believes in the core principle that we are equal under the law.”
Cornell William Brooks, NAACP President and CEO
“We are deeply disappointed in the grand jury’s decision not to indict Daniel Pantaleo for the tragic death of Eric Garner. On July 17th, the life of Eric Garner was stolen by an officer whose first responsibility was to serve and protect. Daniel Pantaleo, the officer who put Eric Garner in an illegal chokehold, remains free as the family of Eric Garner will forever mourn. While we are frustrated, we are not defeated. The grand jury’s decision does not mean a crime was not committed in Staten Island, New York, and it does not mean we are done fighting for Eric Garner. It is precisely for this reason we are completing our “Journey for Justice March: Ferguson to Jefferson City” because we must bring racial profiling and police brutality to the forefront of our national consciousness. The NAACP and our allies will not stand down until accountability and justice in cases of police misconduct are served for Garner and the countless other men and women who lost their lives to such police discrimination.”
Hazel Dukes, President of the NAACP New York State Conference
“We are deeply, deeply troubled by the grand jury’s decision not to indict Daniel Pantaleo for the tragic death of Eric Garner. We will continue to press, alongside others who care about justice, to have the governor appoint a special prosecutor to re-consider this matter. Additionally, we will ask the Justice Department to press forward with a federal civil rights indictment against the officer and to look at and investigate the policies and practices of the NYPD, in particular the use of choke holds. We understand the anger that will flow from the failure of this City’s criminal justice system. That being said, we urge calm and we remain confident that, even while protests will take place, those protests will be within the bounds of the law and in the best American tradition. At the same time, we urge the NYPD to act appropriately in policing the protests so that there is no provocation on the part of the police to transform, by its actions, what is otherwise peaceful protest into something that no one wishes.”
New York City Mayor, Bill de Blasio
“It’s a very emotional day for our city. It’s a very painful day for so many New Yorkers. We’re grieving – again – over the loss of Eric Garner, who was a father, a husband, a good man – who should be with us.”
Brooklyn Borough President, Eric Adams
“Over forty years later, these emotions have been reignited, with the Staten Island grand jury decision not to move forward and to end all further local criminal inquiry into the death of Eric Garner. It is difficult for many of us to accept this decision considering both hearing the video of a man on the ground yelling, ‘I can’t breathe,’ and the Chief Medical Examiner stating the chokehold was the cause of Mr. Garner’s death. I share in the disbelief that many people are feeling about this result. The question is what we, as concerned citizens seeking justice in our society, will do.”
City Council Member Jumaane Williams
“There are no words to adequately describe how I feel tonight, but I’ve been vacillating between numbness and abject anger. People keep telling us to ‘stay calm’and ‘keep the peace,’ but where is justice and accountability for this life lost? The video is there; but video or not, there is always a reason why its ok that unarmed Black and Brown people are killed by law enforcement. Dan Donovan and Staten Island’s grand jury failed, but the Mayor and Commissioner cannot fail. Department protocol was violated and another unarmed man is dead. Officer Pantaleo must be held accountable for killing Eric Garner and he must be fired immediately.”
Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) Executive Director Vincent Warren
“How can anyone in the community have faith in the system now? 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 choke hold, 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. With the court-ordered joint reform process in our class action stop-and-frisk case Floyd v. City of New York finally getting underway, we have that opportunity.”
New York Working Families Party State Director Bill Lipton
“The deaths of Eric Garner and Mike Brown were tragedy. The grand jury decisions were farce. Once again, a black man is killed, and yet somehow, no crime has been committed. The pattern is maddening and familiar. Until the deaths of black mothers’ sons are as important as the deaths of white mothers’ sons, our nation has fallen short of the promises of equality and democracy for all.
We must erase the stain of racial injustice. We must change not just hearts and mind, but also public policies and public officials. Today, we rededicate ourselves to fighting for an America where all lives have equal worth in the eyes of the law.”
Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr.
“I am incredibly saddened and shocked that a grand jury on Staten Island has failed to indict Police Officer Daniel Pantaleo in the death of Eric Garner. The system is broken. Officer Pantaleo’s deadly encounter was caught clearly on videotape, and yet Eric Garner and his family will not know the justice of a jury trial. This is a travesty. I hope that a federal investigation will be forthcoming.
“My thoughts and prayers are with the Garner family, and I wish them peace in their most difficult hour. This is why we protest: to fight injustice. Whether Amadou Diallo or Eric Bell or now Eric Garner, we protest to stand up against a justice system that so often seems to fail men and women of color. We can no longer allow that to stand.
With that said, this is not the time for violence. I urge the people of this city to fight their battles through continued protest and activism, and not to meet this outrage with more violence,”
Staten Island Assemblyman Matthew Titone
“I want to thank the people of the grand jury for their service to the community. We must respect their decision despite our frustration and disappointment. It is my hope that a special prosecutor will be appointed to thoroughly investigate civil rights violations. Right now what is most important is that we keep Eric Garner’s family in our hearts and prayers and to remember their calls for calm and peace.”
State Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman
“My heart and prayers go out to the Garner family. I understand and respect the anger and frustration that many are feeling right now, but I join Mayor de Blasio and the Garner family in calling for a peaceful response from anyone who may choose to exercise their right to protest. As New Yorkers, we have a proud history of respectful and peaceful protests. Continuing that leadership is critical to moving forward together toward meaningful reform.”
Pete Haviland-Eduah, National Policy Director for the Million Hoodies Movement for Justice
“People everywhere have once again been let down by the judicial system as they failed to prosecute a police officer, whose excessive force led to the death of an unarmed man. This failure has given the ugly face of broken windows policing tactics and racial bias space to reveal itself once more for the world to see. With each breakdown in the system, we become more empowered as a community; with each case of marginalized black and brown bodies, we come together, as one to demand the respect, dignity and rights we deserve. We stand with the family of Eric Garner along with the Staten Island community as we remember a man whose life was cut too short by antiquated policing tactics and work through non-violent direct action to seek meaningful solutions to ensure this does not happen in our streets again.”
New York Civil Liberties Union Executive Director Donna Lieberman
“The failure of the Staten Island Grand Jury to file an indictment in the killing of Eric Garner leaves New Yorkers with an inescapable question: How will the NYPD hold the officers involved accountable for his death? And what will Commissioner Bratton do to ensure that this is the last tragedy of its kind? Unless the Police Department aggressively deals with its culture of impunity and trains officers that they must simultaneously protect both safety and individual rights, officers will continue to believe that they can act without consequence,”
George Gresham, President of 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East
“First, our heartfelt condolences go out once again to the family of Eric Garner – a son, husband, father of six and grandfather of two. This deeply disappointing grand jury decision has caused new grief for people of conscience around New York, the country and the globe. In the wake of Michael Brown’s killing, many have called for the implementation of police body cameras, which could be an important step towards greater accountability. However, in this case the chokehold that led to Eric Garner’s death was there on video for the world to see, which makes the grand jury decision all the more hurtful and difficult to understand. In the video, he said eleven times that he could not breathe. Did Eric Garner’s actions warrant a chokehold which violated the NYPD’s own policies, and resulted in his violent death? The long and growing list of unarmed people of color killed by the police stands in stark contrast to our ideals as a nation. This is not a black issue or a brown issue or a white issue, this is a human rights issue. It is a moral imperative that all lives have the same value in the eyes of the justice system and that the laws of our country are enforced equally in every community.”
Pamela Meanes, President of the National Bar Association
“Today’s decision by the Grand Jury brings a great level of disappointment, as justice for yet another black unarmed male goes unanswered. Within a week, this country has now been devastated with the lack of addressing issues of inequality and racial bias in policing, the justice system, and violence against members of minority communities.”
Katrina Gamble, Director of Civic Engagement and Politics at the Center for Popular Democracy
“Today’s failure of the grand jury to indict NYPD officers in the strangling death of husband and father Eric Garner is yet further evidence of the heinous systemic state violence that targets black people in the United States. Despite the video and medical evidence that Mr. Garner was murdered, the justice system has again failed to live up to its name. We are outraged to hear this news just days after the Ferguson, MO grand jury decision to not indict Darren Wilson for the killing of unarmed teenager, Michael Brown. These decisions send a clear message to black and brown communities across the country that the lives of their brothers, fathers and sisters still, more than five decades after the murder of Emmett Till, do not matter in the eyes of the state.”
Congressman Eliot Engel
“The men and women who serve in the New York Police Department have sworn to uphold and protect our communities. Most of them are heroes who work hard, and save lives. They serve admirably, and the few who do not should not tarnish the entire police force. I generally don’t question grand juries, but I have to say this doesn’t pass the smell test. There is going to be a lot of outrage about this, there is going to be a lot of people who rightfully feel that justice was not served. I hope that people who feel that way will be peaceful, not violent.”