Frustrations across the country continue to mount after a Staten Island grand jury decided not to charge the NYPD officer who killed Eric Garner. Reactions to the news was swift, as protesters poured into the streets across New York City, chanting “I can’t breathe,” Garner’s final words. Unlike the mixed reaction to the decision handed down by the grand jury in Missouri, many were stunned the grand jury did not charge Officer Daniel Pantaleo with a crime.
Shortly after the announcement, President Obama, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, and Attorney General Eric Holder each made public statements calling for equality and justice for all.
“This is an issue that we’ve been dealing with for too long and it’s time for us to make more progress than we’ve made,” the President said, noting he met with activists from Ferguson, law enforcement officials, and mayors from around the country this week to discuss solutions to unfair policing practices. “I’m not interested in talk; I’m interested in action. And I am absolutely committed as President of the United States to making sure that we have a country in which everybody believes in the core principle that we are equal under the law.”
The President reiterated, “We are not going to let up until we see a strengthening of the trust and a strengthening of the accountability that exists between our communities and our law enforcement.”
The Attorney General echoed the President’s sentiments. “All lives must be valued. Mr. Garner’s death is one of several recent incidents across the country that have tested the sense of trust that must exist between law enforcement and the communities they are charged to serve and protect,” Holder said in a press conference announcing the Justice Department will open an investigation into Garner’s death. “This is not a New York issue or a Ferguson issue alone. Those who have protested peacefully across our great nation following the grand jury’s decision in Ferguson have made that clear.”
Mayor de Blasio, who is married to a Black woman and has a teenage son, took an even more personal tone.
“It’s a very painful day for so many New Yorkers,” de Blasio told reporters. “This is now a national moment of grief, a national moment of pain and searching for a solution. And you’ve heard in so many places, people of all backgrounds utter the same basic phrase. They’ve said ‘Black lives matter.’ And they said it because it had to be said. It’s a phrase that should never have to be said. It should be self-evident. But our history, sadly, requires us to say that Black lives matter.”
Demonstrators across the country took to the streets, and the tweets, after the decision to declare #BlackLivesMatter in spite of the recent spate of violence by police. Artists like J. Cole, Q-Tip, Kerry Washington, and Sean Diddy Combs even got into the mix. J. Cole as well as Spike Lee was spotted in the middle of a protest in New York City, and Diddy vented his frustration about the decision on Instagram.
“We as artists, myself included, all have to step up and be better leaders in our communities,” Combs said. “It’s a hard burden to bear, but we have been chosen whether we like it or not. We need to do whatever we can in a POSITIVE way, to help unite people of all colors in this injustice!”
Reverend Al Sharpton announced civil rights leaders and activists will host an anti-police brutality march later this month in Washington D.C., and multiple protests are scheduled around the country this week.
While some believe the system will not change and will remain unfair to people of color, others are bolstered by Garner’s words to the officers who confronted him that fateful day: this stops today.