Mayor Bill de Blasio’s office hastily canceled an afternoon announcement and bill signing at City Hall amid reports from multiple news outlets that a Staten Island grand jury had opted not to indict a police officer in the death of Eric Garner.
NY1 was first to report the news. A well-placed Staten Island source confirmed to the Observer this afternoon that the grand jury had decided not to indict police officer Daniel Pantaleo in Garner’s July death.
Mr. de Blasio was scheduled to sign several pieces of legislation and make an announcement at a hearing in City Hall’s Blue Room at 2:15 p.m. The room was full of elected officials and community activists set to testify on the bills and witness the signing when an aide to the mayor announced the event would be canceled due to “scheduling.”
The mayor’s staff said they would not comment on reports about the grand jury, though they said they said he would head to Staten Island this afternoon.
While nothing official has been released by Staten Island District Attorney Daniel Donovan, some elected officials and advocates have already begun reacting to the reports of the grand jury reaching a conclusion, and calling for any protest to be peaceful.
“Although it took longer than we had hoped to reach a decision, the grand jury has finally reached its conclusion. Some folks here on Staten Island—our island, our home—will agree with the results, and many will not. In this matter, the Garner family, the NYPD and the office of the Borough President speak with one voice when we say that disagreeing with the conclusion of the grand jury is your absolute right, and so is peacefully protesting the result and advocating for change,” Borough President James Oddo, a Republican, said in a statement.
Mr. Oddo continued: “But it is the obligation of all to do so while respecting the rule of law. In earlier demonstrations, Staten Islanders have shown that they respect their neighbors and their community, and understand that peaceful protests make their point so much more powerfully than violent ones, which ultimately distract from their message and disrespect the memory of Eric Garner. We are one island, one borough and ultimately, one family. Let’s act accordingly.”
Congressman Michael Grimm, also a Republican, praised Mr. Donovan’s handling of the case.
“There’s no question that this grand jury had an immensely difficult task before them, but I have full faith that their judgment was fair and reasoned and I applaud DA Donovan for overseeing this case with the utmost integrity. As we all pray for the Garner family, I hope that we can now move forward and begin to heal together as a community,” Mr. Grimm said.
While they shied away from saying what the result of the grand jury had been, or whether they agreed with it, others panned the decision — including the Black, Latino and Asian Caucus, of which Staten Island Councilwoman Debi Rose, a Democrat, is a member. The death occurred in Ms. Rose’s district.
“The death of Eric Garner by an illegal chokehold is only one example of unwarranted practices and the use of excessive force exercised by some NYPD officers. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the Garner family who now join the ranks of the families of Emmett Till, Trayvon Martin, and Mike Brown who have not only tragically lost a son, husband and father, but have now been denied justice,” the caucus said in a statement.
“We are outraged that the Grand Jury failed to indict Daniel Pantaleo in the death of Eric Garner. The failure to recognize that black and brown lives matter is evident throughout all five boroughs, as New York’s communities of color suffer the brutality of hyperaggressive policing and are too often denied meaningful accountability of officers who to choose to use excessive and deadly force,” they continued.
Hector Figueroa, president of the union 32BJ SEIU, said he was “deeply disappointed” in the decision.
“This latest injustice takes place closer to home in New York City where the Staten Island District Attorney failed to secure an indictment in the matter of the death of Eric Garner. Our thoughts and prayers go out to Eric Garner’s children, family and loved ones,” he said.
“There is a serious problem in this city and across the country. 32BJ is committed to acting peacefully with like-minded organizations, clergy and others dedicated to eradicating the deep-seeded scourge of racism and institutional bias that undermines whole communities and hurts all of us. We know racial justice is a worker issue, that racial equality is a union goal: we cannot win at work when race divides us, nor does fairness truly exist when some of us are profiled at home, targeted on the streets, and treated unequally in the courts. Working people will be more powerful when we are further united in all our struggles,” he added.