Protesters Block Highway As Disciplinary Trial Begins for Eric Garner’s Death

Protesters blocked a highway in New York on Monday, May 13, condemning the New York Police officer who is accused of using a banned chokehold in the death of Eric Garner. Traffic was stalled on FDR Drive at 25th Street in New York City at 9 a.m. on Monday by a small group of demonstrators, which included some members from the Black Lives Matter Greater New York chapter, WABC reported.

The NYPD trial for Officer Daniel Pantaleo began on Monday for the death of 43-year-old Garner. His death sparked nationwide outrage after a viral video captured Garner’s arrest on July 17, 2014, where he can be heard telling officers, “I can’t breathe.” In December 2014, a jury did not indict Pantaleo for Garner’s death, The New York Times previously reported.

Following his death, Pantaleo, who is white, kept his job at the NYPD and was placed on administrative duty, according to The Times. Pantaleo is accused of using a banned chokehold on Garner and does not face criminal charges in the disciplinary trial, Gothamist reported. If found guilty, Pantaleo could lose his job. During the trial, the city medical examiner stated Garner’s cause of death as "compression of neck (choke hold), compression of chest and prone positioning during physical restraint by police," USA Today reported. The police union and Pantaleo’s lawyer, Stuart London, both denied that Pantaleo used the chokehold to take down Garner during the arrest.

“We know he [Garner] wasn't choked out because he is speaking," London said during the hearing. In April, NYPD top surgeon Eli Kleinman determined that Pantaleo did not use the chokehold after he was asked to review the videos to make the determination, SILive previously reported. London said that Kleinman did not find injuries to Garner’s trachea during an internal report that he reviewed from 2014 and said that Garner’s “compromised health” was a cause in his death, according to Gothamist. London claimed that Pantaleo used a legal “takedown maneuver,” The New York Daily News reported.

“It basically exonerates Officer Pantaleo,” London said, according to the Daily News. “It indicates that he didn’t use a chokehold. It indicates that the prior compromised cardiovascular system of [Garner] really is what lead to his demise. And it couldn’t be more positive for Officer Pantaleo. I think it’s definitely important because if the Police Department thought his opinion would be not only informative but material and relevant certainly this tribunal should feel the same way.”

On May 14, during the second day of the disciplinary trial, the commanding officer in charge of training recruits at the Police Academy stated that Pantaleo did use the chokehold, Gothamist reported. After viewing several different still photos from video footage of Garner’s arrest, Deputy Inspector Richard Dee concluded that Pantaleo was using the banned chokehold. Dee added that, because Garner coughed, there must have been pressure on his windpipe.

“At that point he coughs,” Dee said, according to Gothamist. “And so yes, I do believe that meets the definition of a chokehold.” Following the surgeon's claim that Pantaleo did not use the chokehold, Garner’s mother, Gwen Carr, issued a statement saying that she would continue to make sure the NYPD are held accountable for the death of their son.

“I know that the NYPD will throw everything at me in the upcoming trial in order to escape being held accountable for having killed Eric. But, I’m ready for the fight. I won’t give up until I get justice for my son,” Carr said, the Communities United for Police Reform (CPR) previously told The North Star.

After facing criticism for not speaking out against the recent claims that Pantaleo did not place Garner in a chokehold, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio finally spoke about the case during “The Brian Lehrer Show,” stating that he found Garner’s case “astounding.”

"It’s not my place to pass judgment; it’s a full trial that needs to take place and once and for all have closure on this case,” de Blasio said. "We owe it to the people of the city and the Garner family to get to whatever resolution a court process brings."

About the Author

Maria Perez is a breaking news writer for The North Star. She has an M.A. in Urban Reporting from the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism. She has been published in the various venues, including Newsweek, Juvenile Justice Information Exchange, City Limits, and local newspapers like The Wave and The Home Reporter.