New York City rush hour traffic was literally brought to a halt Monday morning ahead of administrative trial for the police officer who killed Eric Garner nearly five years ago. NYPD Officer Daniel Pantaleo, who has not only avoided being arrested for the flagrant killing caught on video but also managed to secure a lucrative salary boost in the interim, could be fired if found guilty.
In anticipation of the ruling, protesters took to a major highway in Manhattan to bring attention to something they say should have been done immediately following the death caused by the use of a chokehold that the NYPD bans its officers from using. A small handful of activists unfurled a banner in the middle of the busy southbound lanes of the FDR Drive to show the words reading “ERIC GARNER” followed by the declarative hashtag “#FIRE PANTALEO.”
The vantage point from a nearby highrise building showed the extent of the disruption in traffic. However, there were not any immediate reports of angry drivers, which could be an indication that even the typically temperamental motorists in the city’s five boroughs were sympathetic to what under normal circumstances would have been considered murder.
Meanwhile, nearby at the Police Department’s headquarters in Lower Manhattan, the courtroom was reportedly packed with standing room only ahead of the trial’s start. However, according to the New York Times, even though the trial was open to the public, its verdict may not be made public immediately. The decision “will be sent to the police commissioner, James P. O’Neill, who has the authority to uphold, modify or even vacate the ruling,” the Times reported.
Family members of past victims of police brutality by the NYPD were at the courtroom to offer support for Garner’s mother, Gwen Carr, according to a tweet from a local activist.
Pantaleo’s trial was coming about a month after the NYPD determined that Garner was not killed by a chokehold. That questionable decision could provide a hint at what to expect from Pantaleo’s trial.
Garner was approached by undercover NYPD officers on July 17, 2014, for the alleged offense of selling untaxed loose cigarettes. When officers failed at handcuffing him for the nonviolent misdemeanor, Pantaleo was caught on video with his arms wrapped tightly around Garner’s neck from behind. The chokehold ultimately killed Garner. The entire deadly episode was captured on cellphone video and filmed by a bystander. Garner’s final words “I can’t breathe” — became a rallying call for social justice advocates who saw his death as a murder.
The New York Police Department (NYPD) only began disciplinary proceedings against Officer Daniel Pantaleo in June of 2018. A grand jury decided not to indict Pantaleo and the Department of Justice declined to bring a civil rights case against him.