|Demonstration in Staten Island, N.Y., July 19 against chokehold killing of resident Eric Garner.|
“Every time you see me, you want to mess with me. I’m tired of it,” Garner, 43, can be heard telling two undercover cops in a video filmed by witnesses. “I’m minding my own business. Please just leave me alone.” Undercover cop Daniel Pantaleo then grabbed Garner around the neck from behind and with the help of three other cops threw him to the ground and kept him in a chokehold.
After releasing the chokehold, Pantaleo slammed Garner’s head to the sidewalk while other cops handcuffed him. “I can’t breathe, I can’t breathe,” Garner said.
Garner started foaming at the mouth. The cops called an ambulance and emergency medical personnel checked his pulse but gave him no medical treatment before tossing him on a gurney. He was pronounced dead on arrival at the hospital.
The Police Department announced July 19 that Pantaleo was stripped of his gun and badge and placed on desk duty. Another cop was also placed on desk duty. Two EMTs and two paramedics employed by Richmond University Medical Center have been suspended without pay.
“These cops need to go to prison, not desk duty with pay,” said Herman Perrilo, a city worker attending the demonstration. “It was wrong what they did to this man. I knew the man, his family. I spoke to him every day.”
“It touches your heart,” said Ethelene Jemmott, who lives in the neighborhood. “We should do something about it.” Like many others, this was the first protest she attended.
“I’m a first account witness to what happened,” Joseph Evans, an auto mechanic, told the Militant. “I think it was police brutality across the board. Some people say police brutality is a purely racial thing, but I have been beat up by the police too,” said Evans, who is Caucasian.
Among the speakers at the protest were Rev. Al Sharpton, president of the National Action Network; several family members of Garner; City Councilwoman Debi Rose; and New York City Public Advocate Letitia James.
Chokeholds are prohibited, according to New York Police Department regulations. More than 1,000 complaints of chokeholds have been filed with the Civilian Complaint Review Board from 2009 to 2013, the New York Times reports. The board has said that only nine of those complaints have been “substantiated.”
Mayor Bill de Blasio delayed a scheduled vacation to Italy by one day to talk to Police Commissioner William Bratton and other city officials about the killing of Garner. At a press conference in Italy July 21 de Blasio was asked if he thought the cops involved should be fired. “I leave the specific actions within the police department to Commissioner Bratton,” he said. “I have absolute faith in his judgment.”
Before de Blasio left for Italy, Bratton said that the police department would implement “retraining, if appropriate” but at a minimum would issue “a reminder of the department’s policies” on chokeholds.
Deborah Liatos contributed to this article.
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