UPDATED, Wednesday, Dec. 3, 8:35 p.m. EST: During a press conference at the National Action Network headquarters in New York City, Rev. Al Sharpton announced a national march in Washington, D.C. on Saturday, Dec. 13 to ask the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate the Eric Garner, Mike Brown and Tamir Rice cases. During the presser Garner’s widow, Esaw answered a reporter who asked he if she accepted Pantaleo’s apology by saying, “Hell, no! The time for remorse was when my husband was yelling to breathe. That would have been the time to show some type of remorse, or some type of care for another human being’s life, when [Eric Garner] was screaming 11 times that he can’t breathe. So there’s nothing that [Pantaleo], or his prayers or anything else that would make me feel any different. No, I don’t accept his apology, I could care less about his condolences.”
UPDATED, Wednesday, Dec. 3, 8:00 PM EST:
President Barack Obama, who was hosting the White House Tribal Nations Conference at the Capital Hilton in Washington, D.C., responded quickly to the decision, saying it illustrates problems between law enforcement and minority communities.
I hope you’ll allow me this indulgence before I get started talking about what we have accomplished and what we still have to accomplish — because one of the things about being President is news breaks, and it’s important for people to hear how I feel and how I’m thinking about some important issue that we face in this nation.
Some of you may have heard there was a decision that came out today by a grand jury not to indict police officers who had interacted with an individual with Eric Garner in New York City, all of which was caught on videotape and speaks to the larger issues that we’ve been talking about now for the last week, the last month, the last year, and, sadly, for decades, and that is the concern on the part of too many minority communities that law enforcement is not working with them and dealing with them in a fair way.
And there’s going to be, I’m sure, additional statements by law enforcement. My tradition is not to remark on cases where there may still be an investigation. But I want everybody to understand that this week, in the wake of Ferguson, we initiated a task force whose job it is to come back to me with specific recommendations about how we strengthen the relationship between law enforcement and communities of color and minority communities that feel that bias is taking place; that we are going to take specific steps to improve the training and the work with state and local governments when it comes to policing in communities of color; that we are going to be scrupulous in investigating cases where we are concerned about the impartiality and accountability that’s taking place.
And as I said when I met with folks both from Ferguson and law enforcement and clergy and civil rights activists, I said this is an issue that we’ve been dealing with for too long and it’s time for us to make more progress than we’ve made. And I’m not interested in talk; I’m interested in action. And I am absolutely committed as President of the United States to making sure that we have a country in which everybody believes in the core principle that we are equal under the law. (Applause.)
So I just got off the phone with my Attorney General, Eric Holder. He will have more specific comments about the case in New York. But I want everybody to know here, as well as everybody who may be viewing my remarks here today, we are not going to let up until we see a strengthening of the trust and a strengthening of the accountability that exists between our communities and our law enforcement.
And I say that as somebody who believes that law enforcement has an incredibly difficult job; that every man or woman in uniform are putting their lives at risk to protect us; that they have the right to come home, just like we do from our jobs; that there’s real crime out there that they’ve got to tackle day in and day out — but that they’re only going to be able to do their job effectively if everybody has confidence in the system.
And right now, unfortunately, we are seeing too many instances where people just do not have confidence that folks are being treated fairly. And in some cases, those may be misperceptions; but in some cases, that’s a reality. And it is incumbent upon all of us, as Americans, regardless of race, region, faith, that we recognize this is an American problem, and not just a black problem or a brown problem or a Native American problem. This is an American problem. When anybody in this country is not being treated equally under the law, that’s a problem. And it’s my job as President to help solve it. (Applause.)
Later, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder held a news conference to announce a federal investigation to determine if Garner’s civil rights were violated.
This afternoon I spoke with the widow of Eric Garner to inform her and her family of our decision to investigate potential federal civil rights violations. I have been in touch with President Obama and Mayor de Blasio regarding our decision as well.
Our prosecutors will conduct an independent, thorough, fair and expeditious investigation.
UPDATED, 3:57 PM EST, 12-3-14:
New York Mayor Bill de Blasio late-Wednesday cancelled a scheduled appearance at the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree Lighting in Manhattan, his press office told NewsOne.
A Staten Island grand jury on Wednesday decided not to indict a New York Police Department officer in the death of Eric Garner (pictured right), the unarmed Black man whose untimely demise was captured on video while in a chokehold, igniting outrage across the country, the New York Post reports.
The panel voted a “no-bill” and dismissed all potential charges against Officer Daniel Pantaleo, sources told the Post. It was unclear exactly what charges prosecutors asked the grand jury to consider filing, or how the vote went, the report says.
The Rev. Al Sharpton released a statement shortly after word leaked about the Staten Island grand jury decision, saying that he and Garner’s widow, Esaw, planned to respond to the decision at a 7:30 p.m. news conference at his Harlem-based National Action Network headquarters.
Moments after word spread about the decision, Pantaleo tweeted his c ondolences.
The decision comes almost a week after angry protests flared up after a grand jury cleared White Ferguson, Mo., police officer Darren Wilson in the shooting death of unarmed, 18-year-old Michael Brown.