Police Violence in the US: Ferguson As Well As New York

This past summer, an African-American man died after being arrested in New York. A police officer placed him in a chokehold for a minor offense. The judiciary has now decided not to indict the officer. Renewed protests flare up nationwide.

A grand jury on Staten Island, a borough of New York City, decided on Wednesday afternoon that no charges should be brought against the police officer who placed a man in a chokehold and wrestled him down for a minor offense this past July. The severely overweight 43-year old African-American, who suffered from heart trouble and asthma, died as a result of the altercation. Protests followed the incident. Citizens and activists accused the New York Police Department (NYPD) of disproportionately severe treatment of minorities.

Eric Garner had been selling loose, untaxed cigarettes to teenagers. This is illegal, but as the police approached him to investigate, Garner refused to follow their instructions. He also attempted to evade arrest, at which point one of the officers wrestled him down. Face down on the ground, the man called out repeatedly that he could not breathe, but the officers did not loosen their grip on him. Shortly afterward, he was declared dead.

Prohibited Chokehold

The use of chokeholds by police officers has been prohibited by a NYPD directive since 1993. The protests that were organized by activists in the days after the incident in New York were peaceful, unlike those in Ferguson, Missouri, where a few weeks after the incident in New York a black man was shot by a white police officer. In Ferguson, riots, looting and pillaging ensued. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, who has focused on achieving a better relationship between the NYPD and the black community, has called Garner’s death a terrible tragedy.

Nonetheless, the twelve-member grand jury decided that the police bear no blame in Eric Garner’s death. In the grand jury proceeding, only the state’s attorneys present evidence. Defense attorneys do not get to speak in this phase of the legal process. The jury does not decide between guilt or innocence, but only whether there are sufficient grounds for an indictment. In New York, the grand jury must come to a unanimous decision to bring an indictment. Because the process plays out entirely behind closed doors, the public receives absolutely no information about the presentation of evidence or the proceedings.

Although multiple police officers were involved in the New York incident, indictments were only considered for one of them, the officer who placed Garner in the chokehold. The others, who were subject to prosecution, received immunity for their testimony. The New York police must now prepare themselves for a possible outbreak of protest. The decision not to indict in New York came shortly after a grand jury in Ferguson also preferred no indictment. There, enraged residents protested for days against alleged police brutality.

About this publication

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply