Eric Garner

The Debate Hecklers Were Right; the Officer Who Killed Eric Garner Should Be Punished

Chanters demand NYPD Officer Daniel Pantaleo's firing.


When New York Mayor Bill de Blasio gave his opening speech at tonight's Democratic primary debate, there was a brief shout from somebody in the audience. It was hard to decipher, but it became clear that the mayor was being heckled when Sen. Cory Booker (D–N.J.) gave his opening statement, only to be interrupted with chants of "Fire Pantaleo!"

The target wasn't Booker. It was de Blasio. NYPD Officer Daniel Pantaleo was the man responsible for the aggressive chokehold that led to the death of Eric Garner five years ago. The takedown of Garner—police were responding to a call about a fight, suspected Garner of selling loose cigarettes, and attempted to arrest him—became a national rallying point to demand police accountability.

But so far nothing has come of it. A grand jury declined to charge Pantaleo, and this month the Department of Justice decided it would not file federal civil rights charges in Garner's death. New York City has finally begun administrative proceedings to decide whether to discipline or fire Pantaleo at all. There is anger among not a few folks in New York about the foot-dragging. Hence the heckling.

Much later in the debate, the moderators asked Julián Castro, former secretary of housing and urban development under President Barack Obama, about whether Pantaleo should still be serving. Castro bluntly said that the officer should be fired. "He knew what he was doing….He should have been off the street." The audience responded with very loud cheers.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D–N.Y.) agreed. She said that she's met with Garner's mother and added, "If I was mayor, I'd fire him."

De Blasio, given the chance to respond, deflected responsibility to the federal Department of Justice. He claimed that the department told New York City that he could not act on Pantaleo's behavior because of the federal investigation. That is not true. De Blasio was asked to refrain from acting during their investigation, but he was not ordered to keep Pantaleo on the force. And, in fact, the city actually finally went ahead and began administrative proceedings against Pantaleo before the Justice Department formally announced they were not pressing charges.

On Twitter, de Blasio responded to the heckling by vaguely saying he "heard" the protesters, understood their pain, but believed in "respecting the process":

Unfortunately for Garner's family, the "process" is dominated by deference to police union agreements that make it hard to fire bad cops, that shield them from accountability, and that keep individual officers' histories of misconduct a secret from the public. We might not even know what sort of discipline, if any, is ultimately handed down in the case.

De Blasio also spent a lot of the debate declaring his own support for union influence over domestic policy. The process that has kept Pantaleo on the force appears to be one that de Blasio supports.

De Blasio also said that there would "never be another Eric Garner." Given that he has, since Garner's death, increased the price of cigarettes in New York City even further, fostering the black market that led police to arrest the man, he is in no position to make such a promise.

NEXT: Tulsi Gabbard Calls Kamala Harris a Drug Warrior and Dirty Prosecutor. She's Right.

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  1. Tsk. Same old “cigarettes kill” argument.

  2. … it would not file federal civil rights charges in Pantaleo’s death.

    1. Oops. Corrected, thanks.

  3. The problem is these Dems are the biggest supporters of police unions, which belong in a wood chipper for the way they always protect the very worst bad actors on any force.

    Remember when Black Lives Matters was a thing? They were too afraid to identify the real problem: the police unions. So they came up with the concept of “institutionalized racism.”

    1. Remember when Black Lives Matters was a thing? They were too afraid to identify the real problem: the police unions.

      Only if you weren’t paying attention.

      1. Glad to see this.

        If this is BLM, my estimation of them just went up a notch.

        1. Wikipedia article: “Campaign Zero is a police reform campaign proposed by activists associated with Black Lives Matter, on a website that was launched on August 21, 2015.”

    2. They did, right before the race-baiters took over.

  4. An officer did not kill Eric Garner. His 400lb weight did

    1. *barf*

    2. It’s not murder because fat people. Got it.

    3. So, if police had not noticed Garner selling loosies and decided to take him down, he would have died anyway?

      Garner selling loosies (single cigarettes) was not a threat to me.

      Police using force over something that trivial is a threat to me and you too if you’d think about it.

      1. He wasn’t selling loosies that day.

    4. +1 Crimson Tide

  5. De Blasio also said that there would “never be another Eric Garner.”

    He promised that the next guy the NYPD chokes out would have an entirely different name.

    1. He has proposed legislation to NYC Council to make the name “Eric Garner” illegal within city limits.

  6. So reason now thinks someone should be punished even after a jury declines to punish…. liberty?

    1. Yes. And after double jeopardy, there’s final jeopardy.

      1. Who needs blind justice when mob justice will suffice.

    2. Reason selectively decides that being anti-cop trumps any libertarian principle.

      The selectivity exists because a sacred cow of Reason (and many other libertarians, unfortunately) is to be as much anti-Right as anti-Left, no matter how much more anti-liberty the Left is. Inconsistently applying anti-cop bias is one way of resolving the inequality of anti-Left vs anti-Right content on Reason that would exist if Reason were consistent.

      1. Who would have thought not supporting a banana republic form of justice where outcomes are sought prior to trial would be a right wing ideology.

    3. The jury did not decline to punish. The case never went to a jury.

      The accusation when to a grand jury, an entirely different animal. In particular, it is an animal that is easily and completely dominated by the prosecution and police. The grand jury’s could be because they thought there was no case after a full and vigorous presentation of the evidence but it seems far more likely that they were presented with only a tepid version.

      The way grand juries are structured, they can be good at reining in overzealous prosecutions. The structure is not so good for holding police and prosecutors accountable.

  7. All the cops there should be fired because they all were involved with the lie that was Garner selling cigarettes. It was pure harrassment. Go back and watch the beginning of the video. They blatantly lie on camera.

  8. Why do they think DeBlazio can fire a cop? The cops have a union to protect them. Are they not fans of unions and putting control in the hands of the worker?

  9. DeBlasio, the cops, the unions–and Garner are all in a bed of their own making.

    Garner–and a whole lot of others die in that bed. Yet no one ever seems to understand that they can get out of it.

  10. In any case, I am always for justice, but I believe that such situations should not be allowed. Each person is good in his own way if brought up correctly, and it all depends on the school and parents. I believe that you need to seriously engage in raising a child so that he grows up as a good person. My children read a lot of literature and go in for sports. Summary Story helps us in the selection of literature. Thank you for the article.

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