NYPD Must Terminate Officer Who Used Excessive Force


 “It was Eric and my family five years ago, but it could be you and yours today or tomorrow. They want all of us to believe that we didn’t see what we saw on that video, but our eyes do not deceive us … Eric is no longer able to speak so I will be his voice and you will hear me.” – Gwen Carr, Eric Garner’s mother.

Eric Garner died pleading for his life on a New York City sidewalk. 

The chokehold that triggered his fatal asthma attack was illegal. 

Eleven times, Eric Garner said he couldn’t breathe, and Officer Daniel Pantaleo did not loosen his strangling, illegal grip on Garner’s neck. 

The arrest that led to the death of Eric Garner by police on Staten Island last July 17.

The world saw Pantaleo’s deadly assault. The world heard Garner’s pleas. But there will be no justice for Eric Garner. 

When U.S. Attorney General William Barr abandoned the civil rights case against Pantaleo, it sent a devastating message from an administration whose hostility toward civil rights protections is unprecedented in the last 50 years. 

Astonishingly, Pantaleo remains a member of the New York Police Department, pending a decision by an administrative judge who is expected to rule within a few weeks.  His continued employment by the NYPD diminishes the institution, and he should be terminated. 

It is difficult to imagine the grief of Garner’s family. To lose a father, a son, a brother, to an untimely death is painful enough. To have been dragged through five years of injustice after injustice, to see the person responsible for that death escape accountability seems almost too much to bear. 

Not only has Pantaleo escaped accountability, he has received a substantial raise in his pay since Garner’s death. 

Sadly, police officers are rarely held accountable when unjustified brutality – local prosecutors are predictably reluctant to bring charges. That’s precisely why the federal government has a special responsibility to seek justice in such cases, and why Attorney General Barr’s failure to do so in the Garner case cuts so deeply. 

In the wake of the death of Garner and other unarmed people of color who died violently at the hands of police officers, the National Urban League promulgated a 10-Point Plan for Police Reform and Accountability, elements of which were incorporated into the final report of the President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing. One of the key recommendations is “external and independent investigations and prosecutions of officer-involved shootings and other use of force situations and in-custody deaths.” 

In the Eric Garner case, as in many others, the Department of Justice’s civil rights inquiry was arguably the only hope for an external and independent investigation. 

But this is an administration that is intent on weakening enforcement of civil rights laws. Under Barr’s predecessor, Jeff Sessions, the Justice Department abandoned all efforts to work with local police departments to address discriminatory practices. Consent decrees historically have been a crucial tool in the Justice Department’s efforts to ensure constitutional and accountable policing. 

The department also tried, unsuccessfully, to block a federal court in Baltimore from approving a consent decree between the city and the Baltimore Police Department to rein in discriminatory police practices that the department itself had negotiated over a multi-year period. 

The Department of Justice’s failure to seek justice in the Eric Garner case is just the latest in a series of missteps with regard to civil rights. Our hearts go out to Garner’s family as they suffer yet another blow in the ongoing tragedy of Garner’s untimely death.




U.S. Supreme Court lets Trump use disputed funds for border wall

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The U.S. Supreme Court on Friday handed President Donald Trump a victory by letting his administration redirect $2.5 billion in money approved by Congress for the Pentagon to help build his promised wall along the U.S.-Mexico border even though lawmakers refused to provide funding.

The conservative-majority court on a 5-4 vote with the court's liberals in dissent blocked in full a ruling by a federal judge in California barring the Republican president from spending the money on the basis that Congress did not specifically authorize the funds to be spent on the wall project fiercely opposed by Democrats and Mexico's government.

"Wow! Big VICTORY on the Wall. The United States Supreme Court overturns lower court injunction, allows Southern Border Wall to proceed. Big WIN for Border Security and the Rule of Law!" Trump tweeted just minutes after the court acted.

A brief order explaining the court's decision said the government "made a sufficient showing" that the groups challenging the decision did not have grounds to bring a lawsuit.

In a highly unusual move, Trump on Feb. 15 declared a national emergency in a bid to fund the wall without congressional approval, an action Democrats said exceeded his powers under the U.S. Constitution and usurped the authority of Congress.

The administration has said it plans to redirect $6.7 billion from the Departments of Defense and Treasury toward wall construction under the emergency declaration after failing to convince Congress to provide the money, including the $2.5 billion in Pentagon funding. Congress earlier failed to provide $5.7 billion in wall funding demanded by Trump in a showdown in which the president triggered a 35-day partial shutdown of the federal government that ended in January.

The case arose from a challenge to Trump's action brought by Sierra Club, a leading environmental group, and the Southern Border Communities Coalition, a group advocating for people living in border areas.

The challengers have said the wall would be disruptive to the environment in part because it could worsen flooding problems and have a negative impact on wildlife.

U.S. District Judge Haywood Gilliam ruled on May 30 in Oakland, California that the administration's proposal to build parts of the border wall in California, New Mexico and Arizona with money appropriated for the Defense Department to use in the fight against illegal drugs was unlawful. The judge issued an injunction barring use of the Pentagon funds for a border wall.

The administration asked that the injunction barring use of the reprogrammed funds be put on hold pending an appeal but the San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals declined to do so.




Michelle Obama Speaks Out After ‘Send Her Back’ Chants: Diversity Makes America Great

ATLANTA, GEORGIA - MAY 11:  Former First Lady Michelle Obama attends 'Becoming: An Intimate Conversation with Michelle Obama' at State Farm Arena on May 11, 2019 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Paras Griffin/Getty Images)

“We must remember it’s not my America or your America,” the former first lady said. “It’s our America.”

Former first lady Michelle Obama spoke out Friday to praise the nation’s diversity after President Donald Trump’s string of racist attacks on several congresswomen of color.

“What truly makes our country great is its diversity,” she tweeted. “I’ve seen that beauty in so many ways over the years. Whether we are born here or seek refuge here, there’s a place for us all. We must remember it’s not my America or your America. It’s our America.”

Trump bashed progressive Democrats on social media earlier this week, appearing to take aim at Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan. In a series of tweets, the president said the women should “go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came.”

All four are U.S. citizens, and three were born in the U.S. Omar’s family were refugees who came to America from Somalia when she was a child. 

Trump continued lashing out Wednesday during a rally in Greenville, North Carolina. He targeted Omar in particular, and the crowd began to chant, “Send her back.”

Trump attempted to distance himself from the line the day after the rally. However, he allowed the chanting to go on uninterrupted for about 13 seconds, and he made no effort to stop it.

“It started up rather fast,” he told reporters Thursday. “I disagree with it, but, again, I didn’t say that. They did.”

On Friday, however, Trump referred to the rally attendees as “incredible patriots.” 

Democrats have largely rebuked Trump’s comments telling members of Congress to “go back” to where they came from, calling them xenophobic and divisive. A handful of world leaders, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, have also criticized the president. 

Many members of the Republican Party have defended the president, saying his comments were not racist and arguing he cannot control the actions of his audience. Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Mitt Romney (R-Utah) are among the GOP lawmakers who have have voiced objections to the “send her back” chants.

Officer avoids charges in Eric Garner's death

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US attorney: Garner case is now closed

The U.S. attorney for eastern New York says there is "insufficient evidence" to prove "beyond a reasonable doubt" that the officer who arrested Eric Garner violated his civil rights. (July 16)

What's happening: Federal prosecutors on Tuesday announced they would not pursue civil rights charges against the white New York City police officer who used a chokehold that led to the death of Eric Garner in 2014.

The officer, Daniel Pantaleo, was attempting to arrest Garner, a black man, on suspicion of selling cigarettes on a street corner when he used a banned chokehold as he and other officers wrestled Garner to the ground. In video that surfaced after the arrest, Garner can be heard saying "I can't breathe" 11 times while laying face down on the sidewalk. Pantaleo continues to work with the department, but was moved to desk duty.

The phrase "I can't breathe" became a rallying cry for activists protesting police violence against black people. T-shirts featuring the phrase were worn by a number of prominent celebrities and athletes, including LeBron James and Kobe Bryant. The Black Lives Matter movement would become a national flashpoint a month after Garner's death, following the fatal shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo.

A local grand jury had previously declined to pursue criminal charges against Pantaleo and his fellow officers for their role in Garner's death. Tuesday was the last opportunity for federal authorities to charge Pantaleo with violating Garner's civil rights before the five-year statute of limitations. Attorney General William Barr reportedly overruled members of the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice to make the final decision not to pursue charges.

Why there's debate: The decision not to pursue charges led to an intense reaction from activists, particularly Garner's family members. "Today we can't breathe," said his mother, Gwen Carr. The lack of legal repercussions for Pantaleo sends a message that police officers are above the law and that the lives of black people don't matter, critics say.

There is also anger over the fact that Pantaleo has been able to remain employed with the NYPD for the past five years. "Don’t apologize to me, fire the officer,” Garner's daughter Emerald Snipes shouted from the courthouse steps after hearing the Justice Department's decision.

Others argue that the decision not to press charges was correct because it was unlikely federal prosecutors could meet the high standard of proof required to convict Pantaleo. A not guilty verdict after a prolonged trial, they say, would have been more controversial and may have led to violent protests.

What's next: The NYPD recently completed a disciplinary hearing into Pantaleo's actions that could lead to suspension or termination. The department said it is still deliberating the matter and the actions of the Department of Justice will not influence its decision. Garner's family said they will continue to fight for justice. A lawyer representing the family said they will attempt to revive the federal case against Pantaleo under the next presidential administration.

"Make no mistake about it, we're going to still push," Garner's mother said. "You can push back, but we're pushing forward because this is not the end."


If Pantaleo's actions weren't against the law, we need to change the laws.

"The system was never meant to protect us, and while we should continue to make demands of district attorneys and the Department of Justice, we should also aim to overhaul and rebuild our justice system into one that no longer relies on a bloated police state that targets the black community." — Patrisse Cullors, USA Today

Criticism of the Garner case should go far beyond AG Barr and the Trump administration.

"A range of politicians and law enforcement officials in both parties, at both the state and local level, spent years non-pursuing the Garner case. It would be simplistic and not really accurate to make it about Barr." — journalist Matt Taibbi, on Twitter

Police officers' fear of black men should not be a free pass for violence.

"I guess my question is at what point should we have expected a trained law-enforcement officer not to be afraid still while he has a citizen in a f***ing chokehold? Was he still afraid the first time Eric Garner said, "I can't breathe"? How about the second time? How about when Garner blacked out? Was the officer still afraid, or was that a "misperception," or perhaps, "poor judgment"? How about seconds before the officer killed Eric Garner? Was that a "mistake"? Jesus, some people will believe anything." — Charles P. Pierce, Esquire

The decision further erodes trust between the black community and law enforcement.

"Communities throughout the country continue to see black men brutalized at the hands of police — without consequence or recourse. This does nothing but further the racial divide and lead to ongoing mistrust between communities and law enforcement. The Justice Department's decision makes this divide even deeper." — Joey Jackson, CNN

Legal ethics discourage filing charges in cases that are unlikely to end in conviction.

"If prosecutors bring a case when they have relatively little chance of a conviction, the effect on the defendant deserves consideration. The experience of being charged with a crime and being prosecuted is an enormous burden. According to this argument, an individual who has not committed a crime should not be subjected to the burden of prosecution in order to serve the public interest in discouraging other crimes." — Noah Feldman, Bloomberg

The standards of proof are high for a reason. The DOJ is right not to press charges.

"Barr’s decision is the right one. Our justice system sets high legal standards that must be maintained." — Kaylee McGhee, Washington Examiner

Regardless of the legal standards, Pantaleo should have been fired years ago.

"Given the facts of the case, it’s hard to see his continued employment by the Police Department as anything but an insult to the people of New York." — Editorial, New York Times

Laws covering police use of force need to be fixed.

"The decision highlights the urgent need to reform the federal criminal law governing excessive force. Congress needs to do away with the requirement of proof that officers have acted “willfully” when they use excessive force." 




Trump Renews Attacks On Congresswomen Of Color: ‘Let Them Leave’ America

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“If they don’t like [our country], let them leave,” the president said of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar and other Democratic congresswomen.

Greenville, N.C. ― President Donald Trump renewed his attacks on four freshman Democrats in Congress, all women of color, saying that “if they don’t like” America, “let them leave.”

“I have a suggestion for the hate-filled extremists who are constantly trying to tear our country down,” Trump said at a rally for his reelection campaign in North Carolina on Wednesday after finishing a long diatribe naming Democratic Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez(N.Y.), Ilhan Omar (Minn.), Ayanna Pressley (Mass.) and Rashida Tlaib (Mich.). 

“That’s why I say: If they don’t like it, let them leave,” Trump said. “If they don’t love it, tell them to leave it. I’m just saying it’s their choice, they can come back when they want.” 

“I think, in some cases, they hate our country,” Trump added, doubling down on similar remarks he’d made earlier this week. “And they’re so angry.” 

Earlier this week, the president tweeted a racist rant clearly aimed at the four lawmakers, saying they should “go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came.”

All four are American ― and all are women of color. Only Omar was born outside the U.S. The next day at a White House event, Trump reiterated his comments, railing against the congresswomen as “people who hate our country.”

Amid a public outcry, House lawmakers approved a resolution in a contentious vote on Tuesday to condemn Trump’s words as racist

As Trump named each of the congresswomen at his rally, the crowd loudly booed. In response to his remarks about Omar specifically, people launched into chants of “Send her back!”

Trump repeated his previous attacks against Omar ― one of the first Muslim women in Congress ― saying she “has a history of vicious anti-Semitic attacks” and that she “minimized the Sept. 11 attacks on our homeland, saying ‘some people did something.’” 

Omar has faced controversy since she came into office for questioning the U.S. relationship with Israel, comments some painted as anti-Semitic. The president was also apparently referring to a misleading video he tweeted in April, splicing together comments Omar had made with footage of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. The video pulled a single line from a roughly 20-minute speech Omar gave, saying: “[The Council on American-Islamic Relations] was founded after 9/11 because they recognized that some people did something, and that all of us were starting to lose access to our civil liberties.” 

After Trump attacked Omar in April as “ungrateful” and “anti-Semitic,” the congresswoman received death threats

Of Tlaib, also one of the first Muslim congresswomen, Trump said at the rally that she “used the F-word to describe the presidency and your president.” (He was apparently referring to Tlaib having said: “We should impeach the motherfucker.”)

“With the big, fat ― vicious the way she said it ― F-word. That’s not somebody who loves our country,” Trump said.

When Trump mentioned Ocasio-Cortez, his crowd of supporters booed loudly. 

“[Vice President Mike] Pence went down and looked at these so-called horrible concentration camps. They said, ‘Wow, these places ... have air conditioning, they have water,’” Trump said. “These people come from rough places. Some of them said, ‘We’ve never lived like this before.’ They have water, air conditioning. Her talking about drinking water from toilets, which was a lie.”

Earlier this month, Ocasio-Cortez and other members of Congress visited migrants held in detention centers in Texas. The congresswoman said that women in a detention facility in El Paso were in cells without water and at least one said officers told her to drink out of the toilet. She condemned the horrific conditions in the detention centers, calling them concentration camps.

“Cortez ― they said that’s not her name, I said, I don’t have time to go through three different names, so we’ll go with Cortez,” Trump said of the New York lawmaker.

And to Pressley (whose name was also greeted by loud boos from the crowd), Trump claimed, “she thinks that people with the same skin color all need to think the same.” 

“She said, ‘We don’t need any more brown faces that don’t want to be brown voices. We don’t need black faces that don’t want to be a black voice,’” he said, apparently referring to remarks Pressley made in a speech at the recent Netroots Nation conference calling for representatives in elected office to speak out on issues facing marginalized communities. 

“Can you imagine if I said that?” Trump said Wednesday. “It would be over. It would be over.” 

Before Trump spoke, the vice president addressed the rally. Though Pence didn’t mention any of “the Squad” by name, he seemingly referred to some of their remarks, decrying “radical Democrats who accuse Border Patrol of running concentration camps, use anti-Semitic slurs to denounce support for Israel, and continually attack America.” 

A couple of hours before the president arrived at the rally, Thomason Lawrence, a 20-year-old in a red MAGA hat from Harker’s Island, North Carolina, stood beneath the stage where Trump would speak.

“He coulda worded it differently,” Lawrence said of the president’s tweets about the four congresswomen. “But if someone doesn’t like being in this country, then they should leave. If you’re in a restaurant, and you didn’t like the restaurant, you get up and leave.”

Lara Trump, daughter-in-law of the president and an adviser to his 2020 reelection campaign, addressed the crowd in Greenville about an hour before Trump spoke, saying: “If you don’t love our country — the president said it...” 

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