One week after the Department of Justice declined to bring federal charges against NYPD Officer Daniel Pantaleo and other officers involved in the death of Eric Garner, protests and calls for his firing are getting louder and more forceful.
City Council Speaker Corey Johnson issued an immediate rebuke following U.S. Attorney General William Barr’s decision last week and repeated his call for Pantaleo’s termination on Tuesday at a rally in front of the NYPD headquarters in Downtown Manhattan.
“Last week, we learned that the Department of Justice decided not to file charges against Officer Pantaleo,” said Johnson. “Daniel Pantaleo and the other officers involved in Eric Garner’s horrific death should be fired. I am outraged that our system has failed his family time and time again. This was another slap in the face to Gwen Carr and her family. Simply put, those responsible must be held accountable for Eric’s death.”
The DOJ announced its decision just a day before the fifth anniversary of Garner’s death. The Staten Island family father of six died on July 17, 2014, after being held in an illegal chokehold by Pantaleo, who did not let up despite Garner pleading “I can’t breathe,” rendering him unconscious and causing him to suffer a heart attack subsequently.
Following the incident, Pantaleo was put on desk duty and stripped of his gun and badge. An internal affairs inquiry by the NYPD recommended disciplinary charges against him. But no charges were filed, and he remains gainfully employed to this day.
Last Thursday, the City Council’s Black, Latino, Asian and Progressive Caucuses sent a joint letter to Police Commissioner James O’Neill demanding Pantaleo’s immediate firing, the release of the names of all officers involved and ensuing disciplinary charges, and greater transparency from the NYPD and Mayor Bill de Blasio.
“Five years have already been far too long, and Garner’s family and the public deserve accountability, transparency and justice,” the caucuses wrote.
“I’ve been fighting alongside Eric Garner’s family and dedicated advocates for five years since he was killed by Daniel Pantaleo,” said Public Advocate Jumaane Williams at Tuesday’s rally. “After all of that time, we are still pursuing justice. I’m looking to the NYPD commissioner and the mayor, who seemingly agree that a tragic injustice occurred—but have yet to do anything to seek justice now. I hope they will do the right thing and fire Pantaleo, but frankly, I’m not sure we should hold our breath.”
City Council members continued to discuss Eric Garner’s case and highlighted other cases of police brutality at a meeting Tuesday afternoon, amNY reports.
More than two dozen council members attended the meeting wearing T-shirts that read “I can’t breathe.” During the headcount, each of the members recited the name of an unarmed civilian killed by police officers, following each name with “I can’t breathe.”
“Up until now, those responsible for the death of Eric Garner have skirted accountability and disciplinary action,” said Council Member Antonio Reynoso, a member of the Black, Latino, Asian and Progressive Caucuses. “It is especially outrageous that Officer Daniel Pantaleo has continued to collect a six-figure salary after undeniably killing Mr. Garner with an illegal chokehold. Commissioner O’Neill should fire Officer Pantaleo immediately, and Mayor de Blasio needs to demonstrate leadership by pressuring him to do so.”
De Blasio said he would let the NYPD’s departmental hearing play itself out before making any decision regarding Pantaleo.
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