Politicians weighed in heavily after a grand jury decision was announced Wednesday not to indict a New York police officer over the death of Eric Garner in July.
[The incident] speaks to the larger issues that we’ve been talking about now for the last week, the last month, the last year, and sadly for decades. And that is the concern on the part of too many minority communities that law enforcement is not working with them and dealing with them in a fair way.
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder stated that the Garner and Michael Brown cases will be investigated by the Department of Justice.
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand: “The death of Eric Garner is a tragedy that demands accountability. Nobody unarmed should die on a New York City street corner for suspected low-level offenses.”
NY Gov. Andrew Cuomo: “The circumstances surrounding his death were nothing short of tragic. And while there will be people who disagree with today’s grand jury decision, it is important that we respect the legal process and rule of law,” he said in a statement. “At the same time, the justice system also allows for additional investigations and reviews, and it may be appropriate for the federal government to do so in this case. And if there are improvements to be made and lessons to be learned, we at the state level are ready to act to better the system.”
New York Mayor Bill de Blasio:
His death was a terrible tragedy that no family should have to endure. This is a subject that is never far from my family’s minds – or our hearts. And Eric Garner’s death put a spotlight on police-community relations and civil rights – some of most critical issues our nation faces today.
Richmond County District Attorney Daniel M. Donovan:
I first want to express my condolences to Eric Garner’s family for their loss, and to acknowledge the heartache of his mother, his wife, his children, as well as his other family members, loved ones, and friends, who have consistently carried themselves with grace during the past four months.
Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, D-Brooklyn/Queens: “It should shock the conscience of every single American who cares about justice and fair play.”
Rep. Charles Rangel, D-Manhattan/Bronx:
A human being was killed. He was surrounded by policemen. No one else touched him. And the grand jury did not say that he committed suicide. They didn’t say what happened. That’s why it’s important that the district attorney has an obligation to bring the facts to New York and the American people to see how they could have possibly stretched their imagination to reach that decision.
Councilman Rory Lancman:
We saw a video of an officer performing a prohibited chokehold, a chokehold that is prohibited by NYPD policy and has been for a couple of decades now. I just don’t see how you put the video together, you put the coroner’s report together, and you don’t get one of those two charges, (second degree manslaughter or criminally negligent homicide) at least as a charge to go to a trial and have a jury ultimately decide guilty or innocence.
Of course, the Rev. Al Sharpton had a lot to say
- A national march will be held in Washington, D.C. on December 13 to halt police brutality and ask that the DOJ to prosecute NYPD officer Daniel Pantaleo, the officer in the Garner case.
- The grand jury process cannot be trusted.
- Sharpton’s National Action Network will meet with the National Urban League, the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation and the Black Women’s Roundtable on Thursday in New York City to discuss further action.
No amount of secret grand juries with local prosecutors that put up evidence that we do not know is going to stop people from raising the questions and demanding the answers … It is time for a national march to deal with a national crisis. Why a national march? Because we cannot be put around like social hamsters – one minute Ferguson, next minute New York, next minute Cleveland. No, we’re going to bring Ferguson, Cleveland and all of New York to the nation’s capital to say enough is enough … This is going to be a winter that we are going to freeze out police brutality in this country.
Officer Pantaleo issued a statement Wednesday:
I became a police officer to help people and to protect those who can’t protect themselves. It is never my intention to harm anyone and I feel very bad about the death of Mr. Garner My famiily and I include him and his family in our prayers, and I hope that they will accept my personal condolences for their loss.
His attorney, Stu London, said, “He’s a 29-year-old young individual, young adult who was really just doing his job that day and is very remorseful for the loss of a life but he was certainly relieved and very emotional when I told him what the results of the grand jury were.”
Garner’s wife blasted back:
Hell, no. The time for remorse would have been when my husband was screaming 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, when he was screaming 11 times that he can’t breathe. No, I don’t accept his apology. No, I could care less about his condolences. No, I could care less. He’s still working, he’s still getting a paycheck, he’s still feeding his kids, and my husband is six feet under, and I’m looking for a way to feed my kids now. Who’s going to play Santa Claus for my grandkids this year? Cause he played Santa Claus for my grandkids — who’s going to do that now?
Garner’s mother, Gwen Carr, said, “How could we put our trust in the justice system when they fail us like this? They didn’t only fail me, they failed many of us. And if we don’t take care of this, they may fail you in the future.”
Meanwhile, Staten Island Borough President James Oddo asked the public for calm, asserting, “Some folks here on Staten Island — our island, our home — will agree with the results, and many will not. In this matter, the Garner family, the NYPD and the office of the Borough President speak with one voice when we say that disagreeing with the conclusion of the grand jury is your absolute right, and so is peacefully protesting the result and advocating for change.” Police commissioner Bill Bratton assigned extra police for Staten Island when the decision in the Garner case was released.
Patrick Lynch, president of Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, issued his own statement:
While we are pleased with the Grand Jury’s decision, there are no winners here today. There was a loss of life that both a family and a police officer will always have to live with. It is clear that the officer’s intention was to do nothing more than take Mr. Garner into custody as instructed and that he used the take down technique that he learned in the academy when Mr. Garner refused. No police officer starts a shift intending to take another human being’s life and we are all saddened by this tragedy.