On Monday, New York City Police Commissioner James O’Neill announced that Daniel Pantaleo, the officer who killed Eric Garner in 2014 by using an illegal chokehold, had been fired. Eric Garner’s daughter, Emerald Garner appeared on DemocracyNow! to discuss the effects of the firing, which came five years after the incident, on her family and their search for justice.
Last month, on the fifth anniversary of Eric Garner’s death, the U.S. Justice Department announced they would not press charges against Pantaleo, despite the Garner family and their supporters demanding justice. This month, police administrative judge Rosemarie Maldonado recommended Pantaleo be fired, however O’Neill was the only official who had the final say. Maldonado called Pantaleo’s testimony “untruthful,” “implausible” and “self-serving.” Garner’s family and other activists condemned New York City mayor Bill de Blasio for his inaction on the issue, saying he could have exerted his influence to get Pantaleo’s job terminated sooner. Pantaleo had been on paid desk duty since the incident.
Emerald Garner told DemocracyNow! host Amy Goodman that though the firing offered her family some relief, it was long overdue.
“It somewhat puts my family at ease, because although it took five years, it’s like, you know, it should have happened a long time ago, but we’re grateful that it’s happened now, that finally someone sees what we see,” she said.
Though Pantaleo was fired, due to the DOJ’s decision, he has not faced any legal action. But Emerald Garner said her family is looking into possibly reopening the case. This time, she said, they have a higher chance of successfully charging Pantaleo because of his status of a civilian and not an officer. During the process, Pantaleo had the resource of the police union to represent him. Now, stripped of his shield, he does not.
“He should be charged as someone who wasn’t wearing a shield would be charged if they would have murdered Eric Garner,” she said.
Emerald Garner also vouched for Maldonado’s claim that Pantaleo’s testimony was untrue and commented on de Blasio, who is running for President in 2020, failing to advocate more fiercely for Pantaleo’s firing.
Speaking after Pantaleo’s firing was announced, de Blasio said a tragedy like Eric Garner’s should never happen again, and said no one should ever have to experience the agony Garner’s family and community have experienced over the past five years.
Despite de Blasio’s message, Eric Garner’s death was not the last of its kind. In 2019 alone, 124 Black males have been killed by police, according to the Washington Post’s database.
Emerald Garner responded, saying she felt de Blasio dropped the ball on this case and that she is not convinced there was nothing de Blasio could do to fire Pantaleo.
Mayor de Blasio, I think that we have a lot of work to do,” she said. “I’m forever going to feel like he had the power to fire the cop from day one. So, you know, all of this is just the aftereffect. We have been asking for him to be fired for five years, and Mayor de Blasio had the power to do that, and he chose not to.”
Finally, Emerald Garner outlined a new law her family and advocates were pushing for: Eric Garner’s law. The law, she explained, would be enacted both federally and locally and would completely ban chokeholds by police, as well as any other terminology used to euphemize the chokehold. Though chokeholds were already banned under NYPD protocol, Pantaleo’s move — where his arm was clearly around Eric Garner’s neck — referred to as a “seatbelt maneuver” or “seatbelt technique” at points during the trial.
“A chokehold is a chokehold,” Emerald Garner said. “You can’t call it anything other than a chokehold. The medical examiner ruled it a chokehold. The judge ruled — basically said — a chokehold. And in the press conference that London did after the last — after the judge made the ruling, he called it a chokehold. So, I mean, he took it back, but he already said it. He said, ‘Chokehold — I mean, seatbelt maneuver’ … they know exactly that this is a chokehold.”
The Eric Garner law would lead to any officer found to have been using a chokehold by any name being terminated and prosecuted.
Watch DemocracyNow!’s interview with Emerald Garner here.