On Wednesday, a grand jury in Staten Island decided not to indict NYPD officer Daniel Pantaleo in the death of Eric Garner, an unarmed black man whom Pantaleo choked to death. The medical examiner had determined Garner’s death was a homicide caused by a chokehold (a move banned by the NYPD) and chest compression, and a widely distributed bystander’s video showed Garner telling officers repeatedly the he couldn’t breathe. Protests erupted throughout New York City after the ruling.
Americans swiftly took to social media to call for reform and organize demonstrations via the hashtags #ShutItDown, #DieIn, and #BlackLivesMatter. By Thursday morning, from Hawaii to Texas to New York City, #ericgarner, #icantbreathe, and #ferguson were what we were all talking about.
On the ground, protesters chanted “I can’t breathe,” a call back to Garner’s final words as they jammed streets and major thoroughfares in New York, Washington, D.C., L.A, Oakland, Calif., and Clayton, Mo. The protests were relatively peaceful, with the New York City Police Department reporting 32 arrests among the hundreds of protesters as of 9 p.m., according to the Wall Street Journal. Throngs of protestors also closed down parts of the West Side Highway, Times Square, and the Brooklyn Bridge, and lay down en masse on the floor of Grand Central Terminal.
The local case has become yet another national rallying point over the death of black men at the hands of white police officers with no consequences, as you can see in the visualizations of how America talked about Garner this morning.
The Staten Island grand jury’s decision came a week after a grand jury opted not to press charges against Darren Wilson, who killed Michael Brown, another unarmed black man, in Ferguson, Mo.