New York City

NYC pols react to Eric Garner decision

Mayor, City Council Caucuses talk of DOJ investigation; Grimm calls decision fair

December 3, 2014 By Mary Frost and Paula Katinas Brooklyn Daily Eagle
City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito.  Photo by William Alatriste for the New York City Council

Reaction to the grand jury’s decision not to indict Police Officer Daniel Pantaleo in the death of Staten Island’s Eric Garner was swift in New York City.

Mayor Bill de Blasio canceled his planned appearance at the Rockefeller Christmas Tree Lighting and headed to Staten Island, where he met officials, clergy members, and activists at Mt. Sinai United Christian Church.

“This is a deeply emotional day – for the Garner Family, and all New Yorkers. His death was a terrible tragedy that no family should have to endure,” de Blasio said in a statement. “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.”

He said New York City has a proud tradition of non-violent protest.

“There will still be an NYPD internal investigation. And we know the US Attorney is continuing her investigation. Should the federal government choose to act, we stand ready to cooperate,” he added.

In Staten Island, de Blasio did not take questions, disappointing reporters.

Public Advocate Letitia James called for a special prosecutor in police misconduct cases.

“We must eliminate the inherent conflict of interest when a district attorney seeks to indict members of the police department,” James said. “To that end, I am calling on the governor and attorney general to create a special prosecutor in all cases involving police misconduct. Additionally, I will be requesting that the proceedings from this grand jury be made public.

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City Council caucus members called for an investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice, but also asked that demonstrations be peaceful and prayerful.

“What makes this even more infuriating is the frequent lack of accountability, which is why I urge the U.S. Department of Justice to launch its own investigation,” City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito said in a statement.

She urged Commissioner Bratton to expedite the retraining of NYPD officers and asked that New Yorkers come together “during this painful time” in peace.

The City Council’s Black, Latino and Asian Caucus issued a statement denouncing the grand jury’s decision.

“We are outraged that the grand jury failed to indict Daniel Pantaleo in the death of Eric Garner. The failure to recognize that black and brown lives matter is evident throughout all five boroughs, as New York’s communities of color suffer the brutality of hyper-aggressive policing and are too often denied meaningful accountability of officers who to choose to use excessive and deadly force.”

Caucus chair Karim Camara said, “District Attorney Donovan failure to win an indictment against the police officer responsible for Eric Garner’s death is an outrage. However, it’s important that we first remember that Mr. Garner’s life was lost and even an indictment would not have brought him back. Our thoughts and prayers should be with his family today.”

Black, Latino and Asian Caucus was joined by the City Council’s Progressive Caucus, which said they were “extremely disheartened by the outcome.”

“Council Members agree that the result in the case of Eric Garner’s death is another racial injustice stemming from systemic problems including institutionalized discrimination, hostile relations with public safety agents and failed police accountability,” they said in a statement.

“The non-indictment decision on the Eric Garner case is a tragic miscarriage of justice, particularly in the face of strikingly similar events across the country,” Councilman Carlos Menchaca said in a statement.

He added, “It defies logic that in a case with an incredible amount of evidence—including shocking video footage of Eric Garner’s death—the legal threshold for an indictment was not met. My heart continues to be with the family and loved ones of Eric Garner.”

NYC Comptroller Scott Stringer said, “If Eric Garner’s tragic death teaches us anything, it’s that we as Americans need to heal the frayed relationship between our police and the neighborhoods they serve—whether it’s in Ferguson, Missouri or Staten Island. We must build a society where all people are treated fairly and equally under the law, regardless of their race. My heart goes out to Mr. Garner’s family, and I call on all New Yorkers who wish to protest the Grand Jury’s decision to respect his family’s wishes and do so in a peaceful, non-violent manner.”

Not everyone was shocked by the decision, however.

U.S. Rep. Michael Grimm, a Republican whose congressional district covers Staten Island, where Garner died, and parts of southwest Brooklyn, called the decision “fair and reasoned.”

Grimm said the panel “had an immensely difficult task before them,” but that he had faith in its ability to render the correct decision in the racially explosive case. “I applaud DA (Daniel) Donovan for overseeing this case with the utmost integrity. As we all pray for the Garner family, I hope that we can now move forward and begin to heal together as a community,” the congressman said.

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