Protests Erupt After Grand Jury Decision Not to Indict Cop for Choke Hold Death

Hours after a grand jury ruled not to indict a New York City police officer for the choke hold death of Eric Garner, thousands of protesters stormed the streets of Manhattan and staged demonstrations in front of some of the city's most popular landmarks and infrastructures -- at the same time that the Rockefeller Center tree lighting was scheduled to take place. In total, about 40 protesters were arrested Wednesday night, and countless other protests took place across the country in cities like Washington, DC, Atlanta, and Seattle. Thousands of others didn't even have to step foot outside of their doors to protest -- opting instead to use Twitter to vent their frustration and share stories of "white privilege" under the hashtag #CrimingWhileWhite.


In Times Square, groups of people carried signs and marched through the streets. Protesters staged "die-ins" at Grand Central Station and in front of Radio City Music Hall, in which they lay their bodies on the ground and made a peaceful but compelling statement. People temporarily blocked traffic across the Brooklyn Bridge and Lincoln Tunnel while chanting, "No justice. No peace!" and holding up signs that read, "Ferguson is everywhere."

All the while, police officers in riot gear attempted to hold back protesters and keep them away from Rockefeller Center, where the annual tree lighting event went off without a hitch.

Throughout the night, countless folks shared their thoughts on Twitter. Several Caucasian users shared examples of how they and others have gotten away with crimes, presumably because of their "white privilege." For example:


The police officer who is the focus of this latest round of anger and frustration -- which comes just days after a grand jury decided not to indict former Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson -- is 29-year-old Daniel Pantaleo. The cop defended himself to a grand jury and had the task of watching three videos and explaining his actions of why he put Garner in a choke hold after stopping the man for illegally selling loose cigarettes on the street.

The NYPD has banned the use of choke holds, though it is not against state law. Pantaleo insisted his intention was to put Garner in a wrestling move and not to choke or hurt him.

Which is all well and good -- few thinking people are claiming that he intentionally killed Garner -- but facts are facts: a father of six is dead today because of his actions. The medical examiner ruled Garner's death a homicide, and, yes, we know he suffered from asthma and that obesity and heart disease contributed to his death -- but the examiner pointed to the choke hold as a specific reason for his death. The fact that Pantaleo wasn't indicted is an insult to Garner's family. It is an insult to anyone who believes this case deserved to be further examined because a man lost his life when he should have probably been arrested and fined

Let me be clear: I don't condone violent protests, which defeat the purpose of the statement you are trying to make about justice and lives that matter.

I don't believe indicting this one police officer will change the world, though I do believe the promise of a trial might make some law enforcement officers stop and think twice before using lethal force.

I have no idea if Pantaleo deserves to go to prison. 

I do know the death of a man warrants a trial.

I do know that speaking your mind about what happened with this particular police officer and this particular man on this particular day in Staten Island does NOT mean you are taking a stand against ALL police officers. That would be as absurd as saying you feel hostility toward ALL teachers because some have been accused of sexual misconduct.

And I just can't get behind the grand jury's decision in this one particular case.

What do you think about the grand jury's decision not to indict this police officer for Eric Garner's death?


Image via Yana Paskova/Getty Images

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