The mother of Eric Garner wants “real action,” and all she got were words from Bill de Blasio at their meeting Thursday night.
The NYC mayor met with Garner’s family behind closed doors for the first time since the DOJ decided to drop the case against Officer Daniel Pantaleo earlier in the week, which kicked off continuous protests. Now, it’s up to de Blasio to decide if the officer will remain on the force — and his indecision has led to immense criticism from both his New York constituents and American voters he hopes to win for his 2020 presidential bid.
“Actions speak louder than words, and so far I still haven’t seen action,” Eric Garner’s mother Gwen Carr said to a crowd of protesters immediately after leaving Gracie Mansion Thursday. “I want to see action and will not stop fighting for my son until Pantaleo and all the other officers who did wrong are fired.”
The family and protesters say the mayor demanding that Garner’s killer be fired would go a long way in ensuring that he never wears the badge again. But de Blasio has, instead, resorted to repeated condemnations of Pantaleo's actions and court decisions made by local and federal municipalities.
“For the family, no part of the justice process has provided any satisfaction or closure,” de Blasio said in a statement following Thursday's meeting. “In effect, they feel that door after door has been closed in their face. I wanted to directly provide the family with an update as to the next steps in the City’s disciplinary process. Even as they are feeling so much anger and pain, I wanted them to know they are seen and they are heard.”
In July 2014, Officer Pantaleo approached Garner on suspicion of selling loose cigarettes. When Garner pulled his away from the officer as he was being placed under arrest, Pantaleo employed the use of illegal chokehold to restrain him. The chokehold ultimately killed the Staten Island father of six, and his dying words, “I can’t breathe,” became a rallying cry for the then-growing national movement against the police killings of unarmed black men.
“It’s been five years since NYPD officers killed my son Eric. While he pleaded 11 times for his life and de Blasio has still taken no real action to address this brutal injustice,” Carr said after Thursday’s meeting. “It is outrageous that I have had to be fighting for five years to get the Mayor to do his job to make sure that there is accountability when the NYPD murders our children. The mayor has been dragging his heels and obstructing accountability at every turn for the past five years.”
The mayor also spent most of a 40-minute interview with Hot 97’s Ebro Wednesday deflecting questions about his indecision and insisting that Pantaleo’s fate ultimately rests on the shoulders of NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill. The commissioner, who’s waiting for a police administrative judge who oversaw Pantaleo’s disciplinary hearing to make a recommendation, is set to make his decision by the end of August.
De Blasio’s indecision echoes fellow 2020 candidate Pete Buttigieg, who’s facing his own set of campaign setbacks for his handling of the police shooting that killed 54-year-old Eric Logan in his home city of South Bend, Indiana. At the recent Democratic debate, he tried to do damage control by taking responsibility for the police department’s failures. He also took questions from black women voters at a campaign stop at Essence Fest in New Orleans earlier this month.
Like Buttigieg, de Blasio’s lack of agency will undoubtedly have major implications on the viability of his already rocky campaign.
De Blasio already has a fraught relationship with his police force. He ran for and won on ending stop-and-frisk practices in his initial campaign for Mayor in 2014. He has also regularly condemned the use of lethal force by police. Even now, he’s touting his record on police reform on the national stage, one of many reasons the most powerful cop union in New York is trolling the mayor as he campaigns around the country.
Protests in New York are expected to continue well into next week as part of the “11 days of outrage” campaign following Tuesday’s federal court decision. Last night, five protesters were arrested for disorderly conduct in front of Gracie Mansion.
Cover: Democratic presidential candidate New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio speaks during the National Education Association Strong Public Schools Presidential Forum Friday, July 5, 2019, in Houston. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)