NEW YORK -- Peaceful protesters occupied Grand Central Terminal's main concourse in New York City Wednesday night to protest a grand jury's decision to not indict a white police officer in the chokehold death of Eric Garner. The group of about two dozen protesters laid down on the marble floor in the middle of the transit hub as commuters rushed by in a demonstration of their outrage over the decision.
“I’m here to draw attention that some police officers killed a man for selling untaxed cigarettes,” Tafadar Soujad, 15, a 10th-grader from the Bronx, said as he lay prostrate next to his fellow protesters. “He choked him to death, which is banned among New York City police, and he was not indicted. That’s not how justice is supposed to work.”
Duke Amponsah, 41, a Brooklyn paralegal, linked the Garner grand jury decision to a recent outcome in Ferguson, Missouri, where a grand jury did not bring charges against police Officer Darren Wilson in the death of 18-year-old Michael Brown. "I just want people to realize this isn't a black problem, it's a people problem," Amponsah said. "I'm a black man, obviously, and this is making people younger than me believe their lives don't matter."
The Grand Central protest was one of many held Wednesday across New York City and the nation hours after the grand jury's decision became public. The decision was reached after months of testimony, including statements from Officer Daniel Pantaleo, who stopped Garner and then put him in a chokehold over the sale of illegal cigarettes, according to the New York Times.
Mayor Bill de Blasio said in a statement that it was a “deeply emotional day” for the Garner family and all New Yorkers. “Today’s outcome is one that many in our city did not want,” he said. “Yet New York City owns a proud and powerful tradition of expressing ourselves through nonviolent protest. We trust that those unhappy with today’s grand jury decision will make their views known in the same peaceful, constructive way."
Many protesters said the outcome revealed how difficult it is for police shootings to end in justice. A video captured Pantaleo putting Garner in the chokehold, but ultimately he was cleared by the grand jury.
"In the Ferguson case, I was not surprised they didn't hand down an indictment. I was surprised there was not an indictment in the Garner case. In this, there's actual video," Amponsah said.