A ‘national moment of pain’: New York Mayor Bill de Blasio does not back NYPD officer

In a direct and sometimes passionate speech from Staten Island this evening, de Blasio made his dismay about a jury’s decision not to charge Officer Daniel Pantaleo abundantly clear Wednesday.

De Blasio was among several prominent political figures to address the decision. President Obama himself went so far as to concede police racial bias does exist.

Obama also revealed he’d spoken with Attorney General Eric Holder about the case. Holder on Wednesday evening announced the Department of Justice’s civil rights wing had launched an investigation into the death of 43-year-old Staten Island father of six Eric Garner.

An emotional de Blasio said the decision of a grand jury not to indict the officer who who put Eric Garner into a fatal chokehold was, ‘A very painful day for so many New Yorkers.’

In a deeply personal and heartfelt address, the mayor, who is married to an African American woman, said that when he spoke to Eric Garner’s bereaved father, ‘I couldn’t help but immediately think of what it would mean to me to lose (his son) Dante.’

With barely a word of support for the NYPD or their cleared officer, de Blasio’s used his own son to explain that he knows the struggle and frustration that black people feel when dealing with police in New York City.

‘We’ve had to talk to Dante for years about dangers he may face,’ said de Blasio about the infamous ‘talk’ many parents of African American or mixed-race children have nationwide.

‘I’ve had to worry over the years..Is my child safe? And not just from harsh realities…crimes and violence…are they safe from the people they want to have faith in (cops)?’

Calling it a ‘national moment of pain’, the mayor said that racial profiling and distrust between African Americans and the police is ‘a problem for all New Yorkers, it is a problem for all Americans. It’s all our problem.’
Clearly unhappy with the grand jury’s decision to clear Pantaleo for the bungled arrest during which he was videoed putting Garner into a chokehold, de Blasio called for change.

‘Anyone who cares about the American value of justice should understand that this is a moment that change must happen,’ said the mayor.

Quoting Dr. Martin Luther King, de Blasio’s displeasure was clear when he said, ‘Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.’

However, de Blasio warned those seeking that justice not to descend to the level of some of the rioters that marred the peaceful protests seen in Ferguson when Officer Darren Wilson was cleared.

‘You will not sully his name with violence,’ said de Blasio mentioning a specific request of Eric Garner’s father, Ben.

‘It’s all our problem. And anyone who believes in the values of this country should feel a call to action right now,’ added de Blasio.

‘It is a moment that change must happen.’

The mayor also said that he had spoken with NYPD Commissioner Bratton about retraining the entire police force.

‘It should be self-evident, (but) our history requires us to say ‘black lives matter’.

The short address at times felt like a line in the sand being drawn by de Blasio, especially when he quoted his commissioner, Bill Bratton on weeding out those who do not belong in law enforcement.

‘The department will act aggressively to ensure that any officer who is not meant to be in this work no longer is.’

Indeed, he left the air hanging with the question of whether Officer Pantaleo will remain with the NYPD.

After the decision was released it was announced the NYPD was recalling all officers from non-essential court business in anticipation of potential city-wide disturbances.

Staten Island District Attorney Daniel Donovan said the grand jury found ‘no reasonable cause’ to bring charges against Garner, who was selling loose, un-taxed cigarettes.

In the neighborhood where father-of-six Garner died, people reacted with shouts, chants of ‘Eric Garner’ and expressions of angry disbelief.

Garner’s father, Benjamin Carr, urged calm and said the ruling made no sense.

The grand jury could have considered a range of charges, from murder to a lesser offense such as reckless endangerment.

‘I am actually astonished based on the evidence of the videotape, and the medical examiner, that this grand jury at this time wouldn’t indict for anything,’ said a lawyer for Garner’s family, Jonathan Moore.

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