US Human Rights Network Blog

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Another police officer walks, but the fight is not over. We stand for Eric Garner.

Jul 23, 2019

Justice for Eric Garner-3

Phoenix, AZ - Following the announcement last week that Daniel Pantaleo, the police officer responsible for the death of Eric Garner will not be charged, the US Human Rights Network released the following statement;

Last week, Attorney General William P. Barr announced that Justice Department would drop federal civil rights charges against NYPD officer Daniel Pantaleo for the chokehold killing of unarmed Black father Eric Garner. The announcement, coming the same week as the fifth anniversary of Mr. Garner’s untimely murder, confirms what we already know about the criminal justice system: the system does not serve the interests of the people, but in fact systematically violates the human rights of people of color, and Black and brown communities in particular.

Eric Garner was a 43-year-old father of six children. He regularly experienced police harassment as part of his daily life as a Black man in the United States. On July 17, 2014, Mr. Garner was approached and physically assaulted by five NYPD police officers. In the video record of the interaction, filmed by Mr. Garner’s friend (the only person involved in the incident who is actually behind bars today in what appears to be an act of police retaliation), it is clear that Mr. Garner was unarmed and did not pose any threat to the officers. He was simply asking to be left alone. Officer Daniel Pantaleo executed a chokehold on Mr. Garner -- a dangerous restraint technique that has been banned by the NYPD for over two decades -- bringing him to the ground, and used his hand and knee to forcefully push Mr. Garner’s head into the concrete sidewalk. As Panteleo choked him, Mr. Garner suffered an asthma attack and a heart attack, and died.

During this fatal encounter, Mr. Garner pleaded with police officers through Pantaleo’s chokehold, “I can’t breathe.” Eleven times.

Since Mr. Garner’s murder in 2014, Daniel Pantaleo has been on paid desk duty, and continues to be employed by the New York City Police Department today.

Mr. Garner’s murder is a clear violation of multiple United Nations treaties including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: Article 3, the right to life, liberty, and security of person; Article 5, no one shall be subjected to cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment; and Article 7, the right to equality before the law. Pantaleo’s treatment of Mr. Garner was also in violation of the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination, and the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.

This case is one of many in which unarmed Black men and women were murdered by police officers who then went without due process or punishment for their crimes. In rare cases of use of deadly force where police officers are actually indicted or charged, they are almost never convicted, such as in the police killings of Terence Crutcher, Philando Castile, Samuel DuBose, Sandra Bland, and Freddie Gray, to name a few. Ninety-nine percent of deadly force cases against police officers do not result in a conviction. The notable exception to this rule is officers of color charged with killing white people, as was the case with Mohamed Noor, who is black, Somali and Muslim, and who recently became the first Minnesota police officer convicted of murder in an on-duty killing, when a jury found him guilty in May in the fatal shooting of Justine Ruszczyk, who was white.

In 2014, USHRN supported Michael (Mike) Brown’s parents, Lesley McSpadden and Michael Brown Sr., as members of our delegation to the Committee Against Torture in Geneva. Mike Brown was an unarmed, Black, 18-year-old who was murdered by Ferguson, Missouri police officer Darren Wilson after being approached for jaywalking, less than one week before Mr. Garner’s death in New York. Eyewitness accounts reported that Michael Brown was running away from the police officer as he was shot him in the back and in the head six times. While Michael Brown’s parents were in Geneva testifying before the Committee Against Torture about the “pattern of systemic targeting and harassment of racial minorities for fines and minor infractions by municipal police forces” [1], it was announced back home in Ferguson that Darren Wilson, the officer responsible for Mike’s death, would not face criminal charges.

This is a centuries-old story that we refuse to accept. USHRN is committed to advocating for the human rights of Black communities around the country who face a racially discriminatory criminal justice system that disproportionately stops, arrests, charges, incarcerates, and murders people of color with impunity. We stand in solidarity with Mr. Garner’s mother, Gwen Carr, who has announced that, despite the recent decision not to charge Daniel Panteleo, the fight for justice is not over. We stand with the family members of slain Black men and women in their fight for human rights and equal recognition of human dignity. We stand with our members and member organizations who are working on the ground every day to demand police accountability and criminal justice overhaul. We will continue the fight to end racial profiling and police brutality in the United States and to protect the human rights of Black and brown people.

Our members are working on the ground to protect reproductive healthcare and fight restrictive legislation. Please visit their websites below:

Malcolm X Center for Self-Determination
Southern Anti-Racism Network
NGO Committee for the Elimination of Racism, Afrophobia, and Colorism
Ella Baker Center
Poder in Action

[1] Written Statement on the Police Shooting of Michael Brown and Ensuing Police Violence Against Protesters in Ferguson, Missouri, 53rd Session of the United Nations Committee Against Torture (November 3-28, 2014)

Related Links:

United Nations International Human Rights Standards for Law Enforcement

Mapping Police Violence