Saturday 23 March 2019

New York City protests: an explainer

Louise Kelly

Louise Kelly

Tensions have been simmering across New York City since the death of an unarmed black man stopped by a white policeman on suspicion of selling untaxed cigarettes.

Officer Daniel Pantaleo was captured on amateur video while attempting to arrest 43-year-old Eric Garner outside a beauty salon in Staten Island on July 17 this year.

Mr Garner resisted arrest and a struggle ensued leading to Officer Pantaleo apparently employing a chokehold technique to restrain him. On the video, taken by a companion of Mr Garner, the 6ft 3in street vendor can be heard complaining that he cannot breathe. 

Read more: Protests across New York after white police officer cleared of blame over chokehold death

The coroner ruled Mr Garner's death a homicide and found that a chokehold contributed to it. New York police commissioner William Bratton then ordered his officers to retrain on the use of force.

Yesterday, a Staten Island grand jury cleared Officer Daniel Pantaleo of any wrongful doing in his actions during the attempted arrest.

Protesters hold a sign during a march against the New York City grand jury decision to not indict in the death of Eric Garner, in Oakland, California December 3, 2014. REUTERS/Stephen Lam
Protesters hold a sign during a march against the New York City grand jury decision to not indict in the death of Eric Garner, in Oakland, California December 3, 2014. REUTERS/Stephen Lam
A demonstrator raises his hands while standing on top of a trash can adjacent to a group of police officers during a march against the New York City grand jury decision to not indict in the death of Eric Garner, in Oakland, California December 3, 2014. REUTERS/Stephen Lam
A protester addresses the crowd with a megaphone during a demonstration again the New York City grand jury decision to not indict in the death of Eric Garner, in Oakland, California December 3, 2014. REUTERS/Stephen Lam
Protesters march against the New York City grand jury decision to not indict in the death of Eric Garner, in Oakland, California December 3, 2014. REUTERS/Stephen Lam
A protester stands in front of a truck to block Lincoln Tunnel during a demonstration against the grand jury decision not to indict the police officer in the death of Eric Garner, in the Manhattan neighborhood of New York December 3, 2014. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri
Protesters raise their hands in front of a line of police officers during a demonstration against the New York City grand jury decision to not indict in the death of Eric Garner, in Oakland, California December 3, 2014. REUTERS/Stephen Lam
A man chants toward a line of police officers during a demonstration against the New York City grand jury decision to not indict in the death of Eric Garner, in Oakland, California December 3, 2014. REUTERS/Stephen Lam
Protesters march against the New York City grand jury decision to not indict in the death of Eric Garner, in Oakland, California December 3, 2014. REUTERS/Stephen Lam
Protesters link arms during a demonstration against the New York City grand jury decision to not indict in the death of Eric Garner, in Oakland, California December 3, 2014. REUTERS/Stephen Lam
Protesters, demanding justice for the death of Eric Garner, hold placards while shouting slogans through Times Square, in the Manhattan borough of New York December 3, 2014. REUTERS/Adrees Latif
A protester, demanding justice for the death of Eric Garner, shouts slogans while marching through Times Square, in the Manhattan borough of New York on December 3, 2014. Thousands of protesters shouted at police and clogged streets of Manhattan on Wednesday, angered by a New York City grand jury's decision not to charge white police officer Daniel Pantaleo in the chokehold death of unarmed black man Garner. REUTERS/Adrees Latif (UNITED STATES - Tags: CRIME LAW CIVIL UNREST POLITICS)
Protesters, demanding justice for the death of Eric Garner, are blocked by police while marching along the West Side Highway in Manhattan, New York December 3, 2014. Thousands of protesters shouted at police and clogged streets of Manhattan on Wednesday, angered by a New York City grand jury's decision not to charge white police officer Daniel Pantaleo in the chokehold death of unarmed black man Garner. REUTERS/Adrees Latif (UNITED STATES - Tags: CRIME LAW CIVIL UNREST POLITICS)
David Scott, of Oakland, kneels with his hands raised during a demonstration against the New York City grand jury decision to not indict in the death of Eric Garner in Oakland, California December 3, 2014. A New York City grand jury decision not to charge white police officer Daniel Pantaleo who killed unarmed black man Garner with a chokehold sparked outrage and protests on Wednesday, and the U.S. Justice Department said it would investigate the incident. REUTERS/Stephen Lam (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS CIVIL UNREST CRIME LAW TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY)
A policeman grabs a protester, who was demanding justice for the death of Eric Garner, as he was marching along the West Side Highway in Manhattan, New York December 3, 2014. Thousands of protesters shouted at police and clogged streets of Manhattan on Wednesday, angered by a New York City grand jury's decision not to charge white police officer Daniel Pantaleo in the chokehold death of unarmed black man Garner. REUTERS/Adrees Latif (UNITED STATES - Tags: CRIME LAW CIVIL UNREST POLITICS)
Protesters, demanding justice for the death of Eric Garner, shout at police at a roadblock in Midtown Manhattan, New York December 3, 2014. REUTERS/Adrees Latif
A demonstrator raises his hands during a demonstration against the New York City grand jury decision to not indict in the death of Eric Garner, in Oakland, California December 3, 2014. REUTERS/Stephen Lam
The 82nd Rockefeller Center Christmas tree is seen shortly after being lit at the annual ceremony at Rockefeller Center in midtown Manhattan in New York City, December 3, 2014. REUTERS/Mike Segar
A commuter awaits as protesters, demanding justice for the death of Eric Garner, march through Midtown Manhattan, New York December 3, 2014. REUTERS/Adrees Latif
Onlookers watch from a building during a demonstration against the New York City grand jury decision to not indict in the death of Eric Garner in Oakland, California December 3, 2014. REUTERS/Stephen Lam
A protester, demanding justice for the death of Eric Garner, shouts towards police at a roadblock along the West Side Highway in Manhattan, New York December 3, 2014. REUTERS/Adrees Latif
A demonstrator raises a fist during a protest against the Staten Island death of Eric Garner during an arrest in July, at midtown Manhattan in New York December 3, 2014. REUTERS/Eric Thayer
Police stand in formation while creating a roadblock after protesters, demanding justice for the death of Eric Garner, disrupted traffic along the West Side Highway in Manhattan, New York December 3, 2014. REUTERS/Adrees Latif
People protest against the Staten Island death of Eric Garner during an arrest in July, at midtown Manhattan in New York December 3, 2014. REUTERS/Eric Thayer
People protest against the Staten Island death of Eric Garner during an arrest in July, at midtown Manhattan in New York December 3, 2014. REUTERS/Eric Thayer
People protest against the Staten Island death of Eric Garner during an arrest in July, at midtown Manhattan in New York December 3, 2014. REUTERS/Eric Thayer

Reaction

Demonstrations against the decision began immediately in the city. In Times Square a crowd of at least 200 people held signs saying, saying "Black lives matter", ''Fellow white people, wake up" and "Once again, no justice".

Read more: Camera captures man's death during New York arrest

People from Mr Garner's neighbourhood reacted with angry disbelief and chanted: "I can't breathe!" and "Hands up - don't choke!"

While not commenting on the decision specifically, US president Barack Obama said there were "too many instances where people just do not have confidence that folks are being treated fairly".

Similarities

Obama's comments are poignant as the New York city protests follow the violent demonstrations in Ferguson after a Missouri grand jury made a similar decision.

Black teenager Michael Brown (18) was shot and killed by white officer Darren Wilson on August 9 in Ferguson. Mr Wilson told the grand jury he fired because his life was in danger, but some witnesses said Mr Brown was trying to surrender.

Read more: Missouri shooting: Unarmed black teen 'shot repeatedly while surrendering to police'

After the grand jury decided not to indict Officer Wilson, violent protests began which resulted in more than 100 arrests and 12 commercial buildings were burned down.

Police chiefs in New York City met prior to yesterday's announcement to try to avoid a repeat of the response in Ferguson.

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