Democrats in New York have called for legislative and judicial reforms in the wake of the Eric Garner grand jury decision with which they disagreed. Yet a politician from Kentucky said the fault ultimately is theirs.
New York state Assemblyman Karim Camara (D), while he did not respond to PJ Media requests for specifics on the changes he would like to see, wants “new legislation from Albany” to better control New York City police officers following the chokehold death of Eric Garner.
Camara is upset with a Staten Island grand jury’s decision not to press criminal charges against the NYPD officer accused of killing Garner.
“The lack of indictment, even with the video evidence that New Yorkers have watched in horror, is yet another example of New York City leading the nationwide revival of occupation-style policing that was so prevalent in the Jim Crow South,” Camara said in a statement released by his office.
“It’s a disgrace that in a great city like New York, there is such a fundamental level of distrust between the police and communities of color,” he added. “It is clear the system is broken.”
Camara said the failure to win an indictment against the New York City police officer who put a chokehold on Garner “continues a pattern in New York City where people of color are policed differently than whites, often to the point of harassment or violence.”
New York state Assemblyman Keith Wright (D) also failed to respond to PJ Media requests for further comment on whether a state legislative effort could be expected. However, he did release a statement calling the grand jury’s decision in the Garner case “tragic and unconscionable.”
“This is a sad day for the city of New York and its citizens,” he said in the statement released by his office. “With the entire world watching, yet another message was sent to African American citizens that their lives are not worth a trial before a jury.”
State Sen. Diane Savino, a Democrat from Staten Island, took a different tack. Although she expressed displeasure with the grand jury decision, she said that is the way the system sometimes works.
“Ultimately, we are a nation of laws, and as such, we need to respect the decision of the grand jury even if we do not agree with it. It is equally important to recognize that many people in the city of New York feel as if they are not part of the process, and that is something we need to change,” she said.
No matter what happens, or doesn’t happen, in Albany, the Garner grand jury decision was the spark that lit a war of words between Bill de Blasio, the mayor of New York, and the head of the NYPD police officers’ union, Patrick Lynch.
It started when Mayor de Blasio said he and his African-American wife, Chirlane McCray, have had to make sure their son Dante knows how to deal with police and to “take special care with any encounter.”
Lynch accused de Blasio of, at best, not supporting the police officers of New York, and, at worst, “throwing them under the bus.” He said the mayor’s comments came at an especially bad time given the thousands of people marching through the streets in protest.
“What police officers felt they were out there doing was a difficult job in the middle of the night, protecting the rights of those to protest, protecting our sons and daughters, and the mayor was behind microphones like this throwing them under the bus,” said Lynch.
Even Newark Mayor Ras Baraka got into the debate over the grand jury decision that came down on the other side of the Hudson River.
“It’s obviously a pattern of the fact that some people are getting justice and some people don’t. A guy is choked to death in the street, it at least warrants a trial,” Baraka told PolitickerNJ.
“It raises questions. And if it raises questions, then it should raise an inquiry. An inquiry means a trial. At least have the decency to give these people a trial. If you think that you can win a trial, take it to trial. To say that there’s not even enough doubt or questions to have a trial is problematic to me,” he added.
Democrats in New York’s capital city of Albany are not the only members of their party calling for legislative action.
Congresswoman Yvette Clarke (D-N.Y.) wants a federal response to the Garner case as well as the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo.
“We will not accept the continued devaluation of the lives of men and women who are African-American,” she said.
“After the killing of Michael Brown, in which the grand jury refused to indict the police officer responsible, the killing of Akai Gurley by a police officer in East New York, and similar incidents in every part of our nation, the time has arrived for us to demand reforms to law enforcement practices that are deadly for people of color.”
The Congressional Black Caucus, of which Clarke is a member, wants the families of Michael Brown and Eric Garner to be invited to President Obama’s State of the Union address at the beginning of the 114th Congress.
Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) might be as geographically removed from the Eric Garner grand jury decision on Staten Island as any politician. But that didn’t stop him from calling for justice on MSNBC.
Paul thinks New York’s tax on cigarettes encourages the black-market economy that Garner was allegedly participating in when he was killed.
So, the way Paul’s logic works, New York politicians are as responsible as anyone for the death of the man whose last words were, “I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe.”
“For someone to die over breaking that law, there really is no excuse for it,” Paul said. “But I do blame the politicians for it. We put our police in a difficult situation with bad laws.”