Reaction to grand jury finding in chokehold death

AP News
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Posted: Dec 03, 2014 10:11 PM
Reaction to grand jury finding in chokehold death

Reaction to a grand jury's decision Wednesday to clear Daniel Pantaleo, a white New York City police officer, in the videotaped chokehold death of Eric Garner, an unarmed black man:

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FAMILY URGES NO VIOLENCE

Garner's stepfather, Benjamin Carr, held yellow flowers at the site where Garner died and looked weary with grief. "We don't want no violence," he said. "It's not going to help nothing."

Carr said he was disappointed but not surprised by the grand jury's decision and hoped federal authorities could do more.

"It's just a license to kill a black man," he said, calling the justice system "not worth a damn."

At a news conference with the Rev. Al Sharpton, Garner's widow, Esaw, said that the fight wasn't over and that she wouldn't accept Pantaleo's apology.

"Who's going to play Santa Claus for my grandkids this year?" Esaw Garner asked.

Garner's mother, Gwen, said she was "truly disappointed" in the grand jury's ruling. Speaking to protesters, she said, "We want you to rally but rally in peace."

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PROTESTS ERUPT IN NEW YORK CITY

About 35 to 45 protesters lay on the floor of Grand Central Terminal as the evening rush hour got underway. One onlooker spit in their direction. Before leaving, the protesters stood up to chant, "I can't breathe" and "Eric Garner."

In Times Square, a crowd of at least 200 people chanted, "No indictment is denial. We want a public trial." Meredith Reitman, a 40-year-old white woman from Queens, held a sign that said, "White silence = white consent." She said the decision not to indict shocked her, even though some might think she was being naive to expect an indictment. "We should hope for justice and be surprised every time it doesn't happen," Reitman said.

About 400 protesters marched through midtown Manhattan, tying up traffic. They were heading from Times Square to Rockefeller Center, where the annual tree-lighting ceremony was held Wednesday night. Police presence was heavy as hundreds of protesters stood behind rows of police barricades, but the annual tradition went on without a hitch.

Amanda Seales, a 33-year-old black marcher from Harlem, said activists needed to get off social media and into the streets. "For black people, this isn't new," she said. "And this cannot continue."

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PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA SPEAKS

Obama says the New York grand jury's decision not to indict the officer in Garner's death underscores the need to strengthen the trust and accountability between communities and law enforcement.

He says police have to deal with crime every day but can do their jobs better if people have confidence in the law enforcement system.

"It is incumbent about all of us as Americans, regardless of race, region, faith, that we recognize this as an American problem and not just a black problem or a brown problem or a Native American problem," Obama said. "When anybody in this country is not being treated equally under the law, that's a problem. And it's my job as president to help solve it."

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FERGUSON PROTESTERS WEIGH IN

In the St. Louis suburb of Clayton, Missouri, about 200 people marched through the downtown business district to the suburban courthouse where the grand jury that declined to indict Ferguson Officer Darren Wilson in 18-year-old Michael Brown's death met for three months.

Garner's name was immediately invoked at the clergy-led rally, which had been planned before Wednesday's announcement in New York.

"Another no indictment!" shouted high school junior Janie McCowan, 17, as part of a call-and-response chant.

The crowd responded: "I can't breathe!"

Later, McCowan and four other young black women walked in a circle saying, "Am I next?" Then the protesters lay on the street in front of the courthouse, staging a die-in.

The protest was peaceful, and there were no arrests.

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FEDERAL CIVIL RIGHTS INVESTIGATION

The Justice Department will conduct a federal investigation into Garner's chokehold death after a grand jury in New York City declined to indict the white police officer who applied the move, Attorney General Eric Holder said. Calling the death a "tragedy," Holder said it was one of "several recent incidents that have tested the sense of trust that must exist between law enforcement and the communities they are charged to serve and protect."

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Associated Press writers Jennifer Peltz, Jake Pearson and Deepti Hajela in New York, Alan Scher Zagier in Clayton, Missouri, and Eric Tucker in Washington, D.C., contributed to this report.