NEWARK – Newark Mayor Ras Baraka publicly responded on the day when a Staten Island grand jury decided not to indict a white New York City police officer in the death of Eric Garner, an African-American man who died after being placed in a chokehold during a scuffle with police on Staten Island in July.
“It’s obviously a pattern of the fact that some people are getting justice and some people don’t. A guy is choked to death in the street, it at least warrants a trial,” Baraka told PolitickerNJ backstage at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center in Newark on Wednesday after a town hall meeting that was focused on public safety. “It raises questions. And if it raises questions, then it should raise an inquiry. An inquiry means a trial. At least have the decency to give these people a trial. If you think that you can win a trial, take it to trial. To say that there’s not even enough doubt or questions to have a trial is problematic to me.”
Baraka, looking at how a Saint Louis County, Mo. grand jury also found no cause for indictment last month after a white police officer fatally shot an 18-year-old African-American man in the Saint Louis suburb of Ferguson in August, posed a question to all of American society in light of recent events.
“Are we saying that we have a [justice] system that’s in place for some Americans, but not all?” Baraka said. “How do we value the lives of African-American and Latino people in this country? If they are violated, at least give us the decency to have a trial.”
Baraka’s comments were an amplification of remarks made during the town hall event, which was attended by approximately 400 people.
“How you feel about the value of African-American and Latino lives is being tested here,” Baraka said to applause. “No matter where we are in society, we have to grapple with the fact that we have very little concern about the lives of African-Americans and Latinos. And I also want to say that we’ve had not enough concern for each other’s lives. Until we address that, we’re always going to be victimized by the system.”