Though at this point it should be expected, it’s always a gut punch when a police officer takes a life—on video—and said death is ruled a homicide by an independent professional and yet, not only does the officer responsible remain unjailed but gainfully employed and defiant about their actions
And so we took another one on Tuesday when the U.S. Department of Justice declined to bring charges against NYPD officer Daniel Pantaleo, who placed 43-year-old Eric Garner in a fatal chokehold over a trivial offense on a Staten Island, N.Y., street corner on July 17, 2014.
Wednesday, five years to the day that Eric Garner died, and a day after the DoJ’s slap in the face, hundreds took to the streets of New York City to remember the 43-year-old father of six, as well as his daughter Erica Garner, who warred tirelessly to bring her father some semblance of justice and who died shortly after giving birth in 2017 at the age of 27, the stress of her father’s unjust death and lack of recourse undoubtedly playing a part in her early demise.
Garner’s family called upon New York Mayor and presidential longshot Bill de Blasio to fire Pantaleo, with Gwen Carr, Garner’s mother, addressing the mayor directly:
“Five years later, we are still here. My son was killed five years ago, and I’m still feeling that pain,” Carr, said to those assembled in a march to police headquarters, including film director Spike Lee, who recorded her with his cell phone camera, according to the New York Daily News.
“I want those officers fired, the ones who were on the scene that day when they murdered my son. So we’re calling on the de Blasio administration to fire those cops. You have the power. So, assert that power,” Carr added.
Emerald Garner-Snipes, the daughter of Eric Garner, has stepped up to take a leadership role in her father and sister’s name. She has been rallying since the DoJ decision, demanding that Pantaleo be fired from the NYPD, where he has remained on desk duty for the last five years.
Shortly after the DoJ rendered its verdict, Emerald was captured in an emotionally fraught video rallying against the mayor, shouting “Fire Pantaleo!” and telling the DoJ to keep its “fucking condolences.”
“The federal government does not want to prosecute Pantaleo,” she began. “If you are not standing for firing Pantaleo, you’re not standing for nothing!” she shouted in her heartbreaking remarks. “Nobody wants to hold anyone accountable!”
Emerald noted that she had to watch her father’s death on loop for the last five years, watching as they choked her father with “no remorse.”
“My sister died fighting for justice; she died, she’s dead, she’s gone. My father is gone. And nobody gives a fuck!” shouted Emerald. “I don’t want condolences. I want my father and I want my sister.”
Emerald vowed to never give up fighting until Pantaleo faced some sort of reckoning, and gave instructions to “those who stand with Eric Garner” to gather and mobilize.
On Thursday, Emerald released a statement saying she met privately with the mayor and first lady Chirlane McCray at Gracie Mansion in a sit down coordinated by the Rev. Al Sharpton. However, she called de Blasio’s response to that meeting “unacceptable,” writing:
It was an opportunity for us to express our position to the Mayor in person though it has remained the same for five years: Daniel Pantaleo should have been fired five years ago and he should be fired now. The Mayor expressed his position and I found it unacceptable. Nothing is going to stop us from continuing to protest and if we had to wait five years, we will protest five years. I’m convening a discussion at Canaan Baptist Church on July 30th from 7-9 p.m. located at 132 West 116th Street in Harlem to discuss the continued pursuit of justice on behalf of my father and my sister Erica who died of trauma after the killing of our father. We will also continue to fight for the countless others that are victims of police misconduct.
De Blasio, for his part, has maintained that he is unable to fire Pantaleo, which many say will be a major sticking point for a man running on a national platform of police reform.
“There is a law,” the mayor said on Hot 97’s Ebro in the Morning show on Wednesday. “Everyone gets due process. You would want it, I would want it.”
“The number one way we can honor Eric Garner is to make sure there’s never another incident like this,” he continued, to which show host Ebro Darden shot back, “I believe the number one way you can honor Eric Garner is by firing Officer Pantaleo.”
Even New York’s governor and longtime de Blasio nemesis weighed in on the case, critical of the city for not moving faster in the internal deliberations on Pantaleo’s employment status. (Police Commissioner James O’Neill can technically be the only one to fire Pantaleo and is currently waiting for an administrative judge to submit their recommendation, but many feel as if the mayor could have moved the process along a lot faster, as it has been five years since Garner died.) (H/t Vox)
“Don’t procrastinate, don’t duck, don’t hide,” said Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Wednesday to the Daily News. “Stand up and tell the truth. You have an entire community that has lost faith in the criminal justice system.
“You know the minority community has a significant level of distrust in the criminal justice system,” Cuomo continues. “Does this help or does this hurt? Does this vindicate the distrust? Does this disprove the distrust? Everybody knows the answer, but yet nothing is done.”