More than a dozen protesters were arrested at Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Gracie Mansion home on Thursday night as they demanded that NYPD Officer Daniel Pantaleo be fired because he used an illegal chokehold on Eric Garner.
Demonstrators blocked traffic on East End Avenue for about 30 minutes chanting “Fire Pantaleo” and “If we don’t get it shut it down.” Garner, 42, of Staten Island, died when police used an apparent chokehold while trying to arrest him for selling untaxed loose cigarettes in July 2014.
Before his arrest, the Rev. Adolphus Lacey of Bethany Baptist Church in Brooklyn said: “Justice has been delayed. We are tired of waiting. One of our citizens was killed with a chokehold and now we will choke hold the city. Shut it down.”
The Rev. Lisa Jenkins, of St. Matthews Baptist Church in Harlem, said the NYPD’s decision to delay disciplining Pantaleo until federal prosecutors decide whether to file civil rights charges against Pantaleo is “a smoke screen.”
“The mayor has let this slide. He was elected on a platform of reform. We will not let this rest,” she said.
The demonstration marked the anniversary of a Staten Island grand jury’s decision not to indict Pantaleo for Garner’s death on July 17, 2014.
Two activist groups, Justice League NYC and Gathering for Justice, organized the protest using social media,
The two groups were instrumental in organizing city and nationwide demonstrations against police brutality — galvanizing a wave of protests against the deaths of unarmed black men killed by police.
Garner’s arrest was captured by a bystander on cellphone video, which went viral, triggering protests and public outcry against police brutality nationwide. The Garner family has agreed to a $5.9 million wrongful death settlement with the city. Pantaleo continues to work for the NYPD and is on modified duty.
On Wednesday, Police Commissioner William Bratton announced the NYPD would put on hold on its internal review until a federal investigation on Garner’s death was completed.
Bratton told reporters at NYPD headquarters: “We have completed our investigation, our administrative investigation, we are ready to proceed with it, but at the request of the Attorney General of the United States Loretta Lynch . . . and at the request of the acting U.S. attorney for the Eastern District, who is leading the federal government civil rights probe into this incident . . . we have effectively stopped our investigation until they have completed their investigation.”
Federal prosecutors are looking into possible civil rights charges against Pantaleo, a process that could take another year to complete.
Missing from Thursday night’s Gracie Mansion protest was the Rev. Al Sharpton’s National Action Network and Letitia James, New York City public advocate. Both have publicly stood by the Garner family and been outspoken critics of the grand jury proceedings that did not indict Pantaleo. James filed a petition to have the grand jury trial transcripts made public, which the court denied.