Reports indicate that a grand jury has decided not to indict NYPD Officer Daniel Pantaleo in the death of Eric Garner, an unarmed Black man.
Garner died in July in Staten Island of neck compression, combined with asphyxia as a result of a chokehold applied while police officers were arresting him for the suspected sale of untaxed cigarettes.
The incident was captured on cellphone video by Ramsey Orta who was a bystander.
Garner had broken up a fight when officers attempted to arrest him. Pantaleo put Garner on the ground by the use of force, which included the use of a headlock resulting in Garner’s death.
The city’s medical examiner later ruled the death a homicide. The NYPD is banned from using chokeholds, however, chokeholds are not illegal.
At a press conference Wednesday night, the Rev. Al Sharpton and Garner’s family spoke about the grand jury’s decision. Sharpton announced plans for a national march in Washington, D.C. on December 13 to urge the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate the string of recent police killings of unarmed Blacks.
“We are dealing with a national crisis,” he said. “We are not advocating violence, we are asking that police violence stop. Now you have a man chocked to death on videotape and says 11 times ‘I can’t breathe.’”
Garner’s wife, Esaw, said she did not accept the apology give by Pantaleo on Wednesday after the grand jury didn’t indict him. She said she plans to move forward to get justice for her late husband.
“I’m determined to get justice for my husband,” she said. “He should be here celebrating Christmas and Thanksgiving and he can’t. My husband’s death will not be in vain. As long as I have breath in my body I will fight the fight.”
Several Black and Latino congressional members, including Gregory Meeks and Yvette Clark, held a press conference in Washington, D.C. after the grand jury’s decision was announced. The legislatures called for the Justice Department to step into the case.
The U.S. Department of Justice is going to investigate Garner’s death, according to reports. U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced that a federal civil rights investigation would be opened in the case.
Mayor Bill de Blasio, Public Advocate Leticia James and several city council members held a press conference in Staten Island on Wednesday to address the issue. De Blasio said that frustration over the grand jury’s decision is understandable.
“It’s a very emotional day for our city. It’s a very painful day for so many New Yorkers,” he said. “We’re grieving – again – over the loss of Eric Garner, who was a father, a husband, a good man – who should be with us.”
The decision in the Garner killing by a grand jury comes just over a week after a grand jury in Ferguson, Mo. decided to not indict Officer Darren Wilson for the shooting death of Michael Brown.
Peaceful demonstrations along with rioting followed the announcement of that decision.
Police Commissioner Bill Bratton met with several elected officials in Staten Island before the decision was announced anticipating the reaction to the decision.
Demonstrations were being announced via social media on Wednesday and took place Times Square, Grand Central and Union Square. A gathering was also planned for the nationally televised Rockefeller Center Christmas tree lighting set to take place in the evening.
Several groups including Communities United for Police Reform Justice Committee, Make the Road NY, VOCAL-NY, Center for Popular Democracy, Color of Change, Million Hoodies and Freedom Side announced they are organizing demonstration.