Outrage over chokehold-cop decision spills over the Brooklyn Bridge

Sitting in — the road: Demonstrators sat in the Brooklyn-bound roadway of the Brooklyn Bridge during the early-morning protest of the grand jury decision in Eric Garner’s police-choking death.
The Brooklyn Paper
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Hundreds of protesters marched over the Brooklyn Bridge from Manhattan early on Thursday morning to decry a grand jury’s decision not to charge NYPD Officer Daniel Pantaleo with a crime for choking Gowanus native Eric Garner to death in Staten Island in July.

The swarm over the roadway of the iconic span began shortly after midnight, punctuating hours of marches and civil disobedience in Manhattan that blocked highways and major roads and snarled transit hubs. Video shot by an activist shows that police allowed the crowd onto the bridge and stood by as they stopped midway across and sat down in the road. After several minutes, a phalanx of dozens of police and squad cars brought up the rear and forced the protesters the rest of the way to Downtown, then blocked them from returning to the bridge. Officers say they cuffed 14 rabble-rousers on the Manhattan side of the span, but denied making any collars in Brooklyn, though video shows cops detaining at least one man.

The Garner decision came on the heels of protests nationwide, including a thousand-strong, traffic-stopping procession over the Manhattan Bridge, following a Missouri grand jury’s decision not to indict Ferguson Officer Darren Wilson for shooting unarmed black teen Michael Brown dead in August.

Garner’s choking death was caught on tape, as were minutes of inaction by police and paramedics who milled around the unmoving man. Police say they stopped Garner on suspicion of selling untaxed cigarettes. Release of the footage sparked widespread outcry, which was again stoked by the grand jury finding that there was no probable cause to believe that Pantaleo committed a crime.

Following the Garner decision, Mayor DeBlasio echoed the outrage of the thousands who took to the streets, wondering rhetorically if his own mixed-race son might fall victim to unprovoked police violence.

“It’s a very emotional day for our city. It’s a very painful day for so many New Yorkers,” he said. “There are so many families in this city who feel that each and every night — is my child safe? And not just from some of the painful realities — crime and violence in some of our neighborhoods — but are they safe from the very people they want to have faith in as their protectors?”

Public Advocate Letitia James stressed that the chokehold Pantaleo used to take Garner down as Garner wheezed “I can’t breathe” is banned by NYPD policy.

“Video footage of the incident clearly shows the banned chokehold that resulted in Mr. Garner’s death and the fact that there will be no public trial is shocking and unconscion­able,” she said.

Councilman Jumaane Williams (D–East Flatbush) broke down crying when he got word of the decision, according to a Capital New York report.

One pol, however, declared that the grand jury’s opinion and Staten Island District Attorney Daniel Donovan should be respected, and that everyone concerned should move on.

“There’s no question that this grand jury had an immensely difficult task before them, but I have full faith that their judgment was fair and reasoned and I applaud DA Donovan for overseeing this case with the utmost integrity,” said Rep. Michael Grimm (R–Staten Island). “As we all pray for the Garner family, I hope that we can now move forward and begin to heal together as a community.”

Early this year, a federal Brooklyn grand jury voted to indict Grimm, who also represents Bay Ridge, on tax, immigration, and insurance fraud charges in connection with the Manhattan restaurant he co-owned prior to holding office. Grimm has pleaded not guilty to 20 counts.

The Justice Department is now investigating Garner’s death, and the Police Department is performing an internal investigation. Top brass at the department is also rolling out a retraining initiative, and is launching a pilot program to outfit officers with body cameras. In the wake of the grand jury decision, critics complained that even video proof of police misconduct cannot bring accountability in the corrupt legal system.

Reach reporter Matthew Perlman at (718) 260–8310. E-mail him at Follow him on Twitter @matthewjperlman.
Updated 10:17 pm, July 9, 2018
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Reader feedback

ty from pps says:
No Justice! No Pizza!
Dec. 4, 2014, 5:11 pm
Moses Kestenbaum ODA from Williamsburg says:
Rabble-rousers demagogues trouble makers, don't they know that Garner was a trouble maker with 30 prior arrests ? Officer pantaleo was afraid for his life from this oversized 400 pounds Garner, it was a mistake it was Not murder, the Jury was right, and to all these rabble rousers I say go first to Nigeria and get that place into law and order before lecturing us ,leave us alone to live
Dec. 4, 2014, 6:42 pm
Common Cents from Crown Heights says:
Yeah Moses troublemakers, it's not like they stormed the 66th precinct and injured cops and set fires like the Hasids in 1978 or 2006...
Dec. 5, 2014, 5:51 am
bkmanhatman from nubrucklyn says:
hey Moses go choke yourself. Eric Garner didnt need to die over selling cigarettes.
Hey Moses go back to Poland or Russia where you will be welcomed.
Dec. 5, 2014, 10 am
jay from nyc says:
I generally trust grand juries, as they are in a far better position to examine what has or has not happened, than me or anyone else who was not there, and that includes the media as well, but what I don't get about this case, and maybe some one out there can explain this, how is it that the medial examiner ruled it a choke hold, but the police union people argue it was not, that it was a "takedown" move?
Dec. 6, 2014, 2:16 pm
Prospect Heights Resident from Prospect Heights says:
Jake: the ME's determination isn't binding on the grand jury and experts are free to disagree (including the police union) on what occurred here. Ultimately, from a legal point of view, whether it was a choke hold or not doesn't tell us much (at least not in the sense that some are arguing). After all, and I'm not claiming that you're suggesting otherwise, choke holds, per se, aren't banned under the law in NY, although they may be illegal if they are found to have constituted excessive force.
Dec. 6, 2014, 4:45 pm
ty from pps says:
Why were the police arresting a man for something that, at most, should have resulted in a pink summons? (i.e., handing over of a piece of paper)
Dec. 6, 2014, 7:59 pm
J. Andrew from Flatbush says:
It is a tragedy anytime a human life is lost but the fact is that Garner would be alive today if he had not resisted arrest. He repeatedly violated the law and a decision was made to arrest him. If the officer had placed him in a chokehold Garner would not have been able to yell clearly 11 times "can't breath". A chokehold would compress his trachea making it impossible for him talk.
The legal system works you just don't like the grand jury's decision. They examined all the evidence and those opposing the decision did not.
You say that Garner's Civil Rights were violated but everyday the protesters violate the Civil Rights of tens of thousands of law abiding citizens of New York and other cites by denying them the right to get to work on time, get home for dinner after a hard days work, get to a business appointment or to a doctors appointment.
You are not helping your cause by depriving these people their Civil Rights.
Dec. 6, 2014, 11:50 pm
Moishe Pipik from Midwood says:
Q: How many Hasid child molesters have been killed by NYPD, "accidentally"?
Dec. 7, 2014, 1 am

Comments closed.

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