Governor Andrew Cuomo today issued an executive order directing the New York State attorney general “to investigate and, if warranted, prosecute certain matters involving the death of an unarmed civilian … caused by a law enforcement officer.” Cuomo’s executive order comes after significant public demands for such an action, with growing dissatisfaction by many of those calling for such action that Cuomo had not yet acted. He signed the executive order during a press conference/order signing ceremony at Manhattan’s John Jay College. (Our press conference photo gallery is here.)
Cuomo was joined by a group of women whose sons have died at the hands of police, including Gwen Carr, mother of Eric Garner, Constance Malcolm, mother of Ramarley Graham, Iris Baez, mother of Anthony Baez, Valerie Bell, mother of Sean Bell and Hawa Bah, mother of Mohamed Bah, who have been the public face of the push for a special prosecutor. Cuomo recently met with them after Carr and Malcolm published an op-ed accusing him of “backtracking” on his promises.
The Rev. Al Sharpton and members of Eric Garner’s family this afternoon visited the site where NYPD Detectives Rafael Ramon and Wenjian Liu were murdered, placing wreaths in their memory. Sharpton and the Garner family travelled from the National Action Network’s annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebration in a bus caravan with a few hundred supporters. Sharpton spoke briefly before placing the wreaths:
A few feet and widely differing world views separated pro- and anti-NYPD demonstrators Friday evening. Gathering just down from City Hall on Broadway, about 50-75 NYPD supporters drew substantial media attention and about 100 counter-demonstrators. The evening consisted mostly of the two groups shouting at each other as on-duty NYPD officers calmly kept the peace.
As has been true of most of the recent demonstrations, elected officials were not involved. The only elected official I spotted was Assembly Member Jose Rivera, who circulated among the crowd watching and, as always, recording video. At least two mayoral aides were also there observing.
The pro-NYPD group was at first outnumbered. Many of the counter-demonstrators joined a march that passed by, however, and the group standing on Broadway shrank. The emotions did not diminish.
Approximately 20 members of the City Council staged a die-in in front of City Hall before briefly, and not quite completely, blocking traffic on Broadway this afternoon. Clearly angered by the Eric Garner grand jury decision, the council members came out of City just before their scheduled 1:00 council meeting to chants of “Black lives matter” and “Hands up, don’t shoot.” After reading aloud names of people killed by the police in recent years, they moved out to Broadway. After briefly blocking traffic, Council Member Debi Rose spoke briefly and the group then returned to City Hall.
How has the Rev. Al Sharpton remained a central political player for more than 20 years, with close ties to the president of the United States and the mayor of New York City? It baffles many who follow politics casually, especially those who are primarily familiar with his missteps, from Tawana Brawley to Freddy’s Fashion Mart to his tax problems, but not familiar with much of what he does.
His communication skills are a central element, but it’s more than his speaking talents. Key to his longevity is his creation and filling of an institutional role. Sharpton gave his own effective description Thursday during a press conference discussing the Eric Garner case, Sharpton’s call for federally “centralizing” investigations of civilians killed by police and a planned march in Washington, D.C.
Mayor Bill de Blasio unveiled an NYPD training program designed to avoid police/civilian confrontations like the arrest in which Eric Garner died. Speaking Thursday at the new police academy in College Point, de Blasio and Police Commissioner Bill Bratton outlined a three-day training course intended to enhance officers’ ability to diffuse and de-escalate confrontations. The mayor and police also extensively discussed the Garner case and grand jury decision, as well as the continuing street protests.
de Blasio Statement:
In a lengthy opening statement Mayor de Blasio discussed the new training program, the Garner case and it’s aftermath and broad issues around the NYPD. He characterized his administration’s efforts as a “series of reforms that all work together that synergize to change the dynamic between police and community.”
The Rev. Al Sharpton today called for “federal intervention” to “centralize” criminal investigations and prosecutions of police officers. Declaring that the “grand jury system is broken” in “dealing with police … questions of criminality and killings” Sharpton urged federal government action akin to the mid-20th century actions on enforcing civil rights.
Speaking after a meeting of approximately 25 organizations, Sharpton also briefly outlined plans for a December 13th march in Washington, D.C. The focus of the march will be “addressing a broken system.” Here’s Sharpton’s statement:
Speaking a press conference on Wednesday evening, Sharpton briefly mentioned that he and Eric Garner’s family had spoken with Governor Cuomo. Today I asked Sharpton about that call. By his description of their call, the governor “support[s] the federal government coming in.” Here’s Sharpton’s full answer:
Mayor Bill de Blasio expressed frustration and sadness in lengthy remarks on the grand jury decision in the Eric Garner matter. de Blasio spoke at the Mt. Sinai United Christian Church on Staten Island, close to the site of Garner’s death. de Blasio was joined by elected officials including Staten Island Borough President Jimmy Oddo, Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, Public Advocate Letitia James, State Senator Diane Savino and Council Members Brad Lander, Debi Rose, Vanessa Gibson and Robert Cornegy.
The Rev. Al Sharpton hosted Eric Garner’s wife, mother and three of his children for a press conference at Sharpton’s House of Justice. Addressing the grand jury decision to not indict the police officer who caused Garner’s death, Sharpton “connected the dots” of other cases of African Americans or Latinos killed by police, from Anthony Baez and Abner Louima to Michael Brown and Akai Gurley, urging action. Among the actions he discussed is a march in Washington on December 13th.
Esaw Garner, widow of Eric Garner, responded harshly when asked if she accepted the condolences offered by Police Officer Daniel Pantaleo. Garner spoke during an appearance with the Rev. Al Sharpton at National Action Network’s House of Justice.
At a press conference which mostly focused on his tax troubles, the Rev. Al Sharpton also addressed the pending grand jury decisions in the Michael Brown case in Ferguson, Missouri and the Eric Garner case in Staten Island.
Sharpton criticized the length of time that each grand jury has been working without a decision and what he termed grand jury roles that “appear to be improperly expanded to where it is about trying to prove or disprove the accused rather than to see if there’s probable cause to go to trial”. Sharpton stated that he has “pledged to the mother and father of Michael Brown that I will be there with them when the decision is announced.” He also said that National Action Network has organized “vigils and nonviolent demonstrations” at “federal buildings” in 25 cities to call for the federal government to “begin formal criminal investigation on Officer Darren Wilson.”
In response to the sole press conference question on these cases (posed by Henry Goldman of Bloomberg), Sharpton described Ferguson as “very tense” and Staten Island as having “tension” but not “as high yet as Ferguson.” He observed that a lack of indictment in Ferguson “could inflame Staten Island and incidents around the country.”
Here are his complete remarks on Ferguson and Staten Island:
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