Protesters interrupted New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and, for some reason, New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker at Wednesday’s Democratic debate to demand justice for the death of Eric Garner.
Eric Garner was killed in Staten Island in 2014 after NYPD officer Daniel Pantaleo put him in a chokehold and continued to choke him even as Garner pleaded, “I can’t breathe.” A grand jury later declined to indict Pantaleo and the Justice Department announced earlier this month that it would not file civil rights charges against the cop, who remains on the NYPD.
“Fire Pantaleo!” a protester shouted during de Blasio’s opening statement.
Multiple protesters then began to chant “fire Pantaleo” during Booker’s opening statement.
It’s unclear why they chose to interrupt Booker.
"To the folks who were standing up to Mayor de Blasio a few minutes ago — good for you," Booker’s campaign tweeted. "That's how change is made."
Eric Garner becomes debate focal point:
Hours after the interruption, former HUD Secretary Julian Castro called out de Blasio for not firing Pantaleo.
“Officer Pantaleo used a choke hold that was prohibited by NYPD,” Castro said. “He did that for seven seconds. Eleven different times, Eric Garner said he could not breathe. [Pantaleo] knew what he was doing. He was killing Eric Garner. And yet he was not brought to justice. That police officer should be off the street.”
De Blasio falsely claimed that the city had its hands tied by the Justice Department and vowed to get Garner’s family justice within “30 days.”
“There’s finally going to be justice — I have confidence in that — in the next 30 days in New York,” he said. “For the first time, we are not waiting on the federal Justice Department, which told the city of New York that we could not proceed because the Justice Department was pursuing their prosecution, and years went by and a lot of pain accrued.”
“And in the meantime, what I’m working on is making sure — and I have for five years — there will never be another tragedy. There will never be another Eric Garner because we’re changing fundamentally how we police,” he added. It’s unclear what form of justice he has in mind.
New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand rejected de Blasio’s answer and said the cop should be fired immediately.
“He should be fired. He should be fired now,” she said.