Former New York Gov. David Paterson weighed-in on the Eric Garner case Monday evening, criticizing NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio for his lack of action.
“Mayor de Blasio is not the problem here,” Paterson told The Indypendent’s Peter Rugh, during an unscheduled interview on WBAI 99.5. “I think Mayor de Blasio just chose not to be part of the solution.”
The decision by the Department of Justice on Tuesday not to press charges against Daniel Pantaleo, the white police officer who was videoed placing the black father of six in a fatal chokehold in 2014, has led to renewed calls for accountability. Five years after killing Garner, Pantaleo remains in the NYPD’s employment. An administrative judge who oversaw a disciplinary hearing this spring to determine the cop’s future with the police department is not expected to issue a ruling until August 31.
‘We cannot allow the mayor to kick the can down the road.’
Whatever Deputy Commissioner for Trials Rosemarie Maldonado determines, however, it is only a recommendation. The decision over whether to fire Pantaleo will fall to Commissioner James O’Neill, who is an employee of de Blasio’s.
For his part, the mayor has blamed the delay in holding Pantaleo’s administrative trial on the Justice Department’s dawdling over whether to pursue a civil rights case. He’s called for due process and said that the best way to honor the Garner family is to “make sure there isn’t another instance” like Garner’s killing.
Kirsten John Foy, who along with other activists have taken to the streets repeatedly in recent days, called that a far cry from justice.
“We cannot allow the mayor to kick the can down the road,” Foy told Rugh during WBAI’s evening news program before unexpectedly passing the phone to the ex-governor, “to erect all sorts of phony and fraudulent obstacles for administrative justice in front of himself and then say, ‘Oh I didn’t have the power. I don’t have the authority.’ And then, five years later say, ‘Mea culpa, mea culpa, I’m sorry. I had too much trust in the Trump administration and the Justice Department.’”
Earlier Monday, seven Black Lives Matter activists were arrested blocking traffic on FDR Drive during morning rush hour. The protest was part of “11 Days of Rage” initiated by Foy and his organization Arc of Justice. On Friday, Garner’s mother Gwen Carr, together with Foy and others, took to the streets and conducted a civil disobedience at a heavily-trafficked intersection in front of the Barclays Center stadium in downtown Brooklyn. Police declined to arrest Carr, despite her insistence that they do so.
In calling for the protests last week, Foy lamented that “this city has not paid a high enough price for the destruction of black and brown lives and our integrity and our faith in law enforcement.” The protests on FDR Drive and at Barclays are aimed at targeting the flow of commerce, forcing officials to confront “the righteous indignation of this city.”
Paterson recalled publically remarking in 2014, after video of Garner repeating the phrase “I can’t breathe” 11 times was first published by the Daily News, that “‘somebody needs to go to jail’.” He said Mayor de Blasio could have done the same thing then as well, comparing the Garner case to that of Sean Bell, who was shot fifty times by plainclothes police at a nightclub in Queens on the eve of his wedding. Three detectives went on trial over Bell’s death. All were acquitted while Paterson was in the governor’s mansion. “I actually invited Sean Bell’s family to come visit me when the verdict went the wrong way,” Paterson said Monday. When it came to Garner, “de Blasio sat back.”
As The Indy’s Theodore Hamm has previously reported, the mayor’s insistence on the due process for Pantaleo is dubious and likely has more to do with political kowtowing to the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association than respect for the rights of civil servants.
Garner did not receive due process, Paterson noted. After having broken up a fight a few moments earlier, he was approached by officers and accused of selling loose cigarettes. When Garner insisted on his innocence, Pantaleo grabbed him from behind and began choking him.
“That is a murder,” Paterson said.
Before the radio segment concluded, Foy emphasized that the days of rage will not be continuous but that New Yorkers could expect more protests in the near future: “We have a whole lot to get off of our chests and we want the City of New York to hear Gwen’s voice and the Carr family’s voice and to share the pain they have had to endure and bear alone for the past five years.”
The Indypendent hosts WBAI 99.5’s half-hour evening news broadcast on Mondays beginning at 6 p.m. Also on this week’s program: amid blackouts and mismanagement, ConEd wants to raise rates. Public Advocate Jumaane Williams has something to say about that. And cyclist advocates Bill DiPaola of Times Up and Tom DeVito of Transportation Alternatives on the uptick in traffic-related fatalities and what the city can do to save lives.