Protests Follow Grand Jury Decision In NYPD Chokehold Death
NEW YORK (CBSNews)- Protests were launched in several New York City locations on Wednesday after a grand jury decided not to indict an NYPD officer in the death of a Staten Island man.
Eric Garner, 43, died July 17 after police officer Daniel Pantaleo attempted to arrest him for allegedly selling loose, untaxed cigarettes. A cell phone video recorded by a witness showed Pantaleo apparently putting Garner in a chokehold, a violation of NYPD policy.
The medical examiner ruled Garner’s death a homicide and said the chokehold was a contributing factor. The Justice Department announced Wednesday evening that it will open a criminal civil rights investigation into the case.
Protests were being held during the evening rush at Grand Central Station, in Times Square, and on Staten Island, where the Garner incident happened.
Some protesters said they planned to disrupt the Christmas tree lighting ceremony at Rockefeller Center between 7 and 9 p.m., WCBS’s Tony Aiello reported.
Protesters had arrived at Rockefeller Plaza from Times Square shortly after 6 p.m.. Some were on the sidewalk chanting and holding signs, as others crowded the area for the annual holiday event, WCBS’s Tracee Carrasco reported.
They chanted “hands up, don’t shoot,” as well as, “I can’t breathe” — which Garner was heard saying on video after he was taken down by the apparent chokehold.
Others, referencing the tree-lighting ceremony, said, “No justice, no tree.”
About 30 protesters staged an impromptu “die-in” at Grand Central Station as the evening rush hour began Wednesday. They organized the demonstration on social media using the hashtag #ThisStopsToday.
A large police presence was seen in advance of the protest but there were no immediate reports of arrests. Sources told CBS New York that police at Grand Central would be “hands off” any protesters unless they impeded trains or got rowdy.
Protesters also took to the streets in the Tompkinsville neighborhood of Staten Island where the Garner incident happened. Several people chanted, “I can’t breathe,” which Garner was heard saying before he collapsed.
Some people at the Staten Island protest told CBS New York they felt Pantaleo got away with murder.
“They killed him twice today. That’s the second time they killed him. Eric Garner — I was sitting there when he died,” one man said.
“I’m not surprised. I’m just in shock,” a woman said. “I was hoping that I wouldn’t be in shock. I was hoping that it would come out in our favor.”
“This is a disgrace, a disgrace. The coroner said he contributed to that man’s death,” another woman said, through tears. “There ain’t no justice if we, if you’re black. You only get justice if you’re white.”