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Know Your Rights
Subject: Policing and Criminal Justice

Youth activists march through St. George to site of Eric Garner’s death

STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — More than 100 youth activists marched from Borough Hall to the Bay Street spot where Eric Garner died in 2014, as they called on Mayor Bill de Blasio and Police Commissioner James O’Neill to fire the officers connected to Garner’s death and the death of Delrawn Small.

The youth-led rally comes less than a week after NYPD Deputy Commissioner of Trials Rosemarie Maldonado issued a draft decision, recommending Staten Island Officer Daniel Pantaleo be terminated from the job for his role in Garner’s death five years ago.

NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill has the final say in deciding what, if any, punishment Pantaleo should receive. Public rallies — with some advocating that Pantaleo be fired and others supporting the officer — have been nearly daily since the recommendation was released, as protestors on both sides hope to influence the final decision.

Mayor Bill de Blasio has been a target for protestors’ ire on both sides of the issue.

Garner family supporters have slammed de Blasio for his inaction in Pantaleo’s disciplinary proceedings, and even his unwillingness to say whether or not he thinks the officer should be fired.

“Instead of having Pantaleo face the consequences, the mayor has come up with excuse after excuse for the city not to take action,” said borough resident Carmen Barrios, a youth leader at Make the Road New York. “He has blamed everyone and anyone … while avoiding his responsibility as mayor.”

“The mayor has made it clear that instead of protecting New Yorkers, the city chooses to protect dangerous cops,” Barrios continued.

De Blasio, however, has shot back that legally his hands are tied from firing Pantaleo or overruling O’Neill’s final decision.

Youth marchers also called for the firing of Officer Wayne Isaacs, who was acquitted of murder and manslaughter charges in 2017 for the 2016 off-duty killing of Small, who the officer said attacked him late at night in Brooklyn during a traffic dispute.

“It is devastating to feel like this could have been me,” said youth marcher DeJaun Wright. “How will I be sure I won’t be the next Eric or Delrawn?”

As Pantaleo’s fate remains in limbo, Garner family supporters have vowed massive unrest if O’Neill does not fire the officer, while the Police Benevolent Association President Pat Lynch has urged officers to call their sergeants and emergency services if they find themselves in a situation where an arrestee chooses to resist.

On Tuesday, O’Neill addressed the heat he has been feeling from people with opposing views on the Pantaleo decision, saying that his choice, expected by the end of this month, will be a “difficult” one.

“I can’t be pulled in either direction, this is the job of the police commissioner, I have to make decisions in disciplinary cases, this one’s an important one and moving forward, I just have to look at the testimony and the evidence and come to a fair decision,” O’Neill said.