Garner decision sparks protests in streets of Oakland

Hundreds of demonstrators joined an emergency march through Oakland Wednesday afternoon in protest of a grand jury decision to not indict a New York police officer involved in the death of an unarmed man.

Officer Daniel Pantaleo restrained Eric Garner, 43, in a fatal chokehold July 17, a tactic banned by New York Police Department in 1993, for allegedly selling cigarettes. A video captured by a bystander showed multiple officers tackle and handcuff Garner as he struggled to breathe.

SF State students joined protesters at 4 p.m. in Frank H. Ogawa Plaza and said they were weary of the increasing number of police brutality cases, particularly against people of color. The protest turned into a fast march around 5:20 p.m. on Broadway and continued through Oakland for several miles as protesters avoided police. The protesters remained peaceful despite the great number of people.

“I’m out here today to represent all the work my ancestors have done to get us here, where we are,” said Sharlana Turner, an SF State student and representative for Associated Students Inc. “To continue fighting for the justice and freedom of our people, to break the chains of oppression and keep pushing.”

Violent protests erupted nationwide and in the Bay Area last week following a grand jury decision to not indict former officer Darren Wilson for the death of Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager shot at least six times in Ferguson, Missouri.

Turner took the megaphone prior to the march on Wednesday and warned protesters that senseless violence wasn’t the answer.

“I’m out here standing for my people and to spread the love and unity,” Turner said. “We can do this peacefully. We just need to keep pushing, keep putting pressure on state people.”

The proximity to last week’s decision to not indict Darren Wilson stirred emotion in many of the protesters. Organizer Joey Johnson of Revolutionary Communist Party, USA said the level of police violence is intolerable.

“Yet another grand jury has exonerated yet another police officer for the murder of yet another black man, in this case Eric Garner,” Johnson said. “We’re out here, again, saying black lives matter.”

The march lost steam as the night continued due to weather conditions. Protesters plan to meet Thursday at Frank H. Ogawa Plaza at 5 p.m. for a second demonstration.

Latest comment
  • Now here’s a real role model. No doubt he cooperated and was a gentle pussycat from the get-go.
    ==
    Sources in the mainstream media expressed outrage after a grand jury declined to indict a New York City policeman in the death of Eric Garner, but there are 11 significant facts that many of them have chosen to overlook:
    1. There is no doubt that Garner was resisting an arrest for illegally selling untaxed cigarettes. Former New York City Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik put it succinctly: “You cannot resist arrest. If Eric Garner did not resist arrest, the outcome of this case would have been very different,” he told Newsmax. “He wouldn’t be dead today.
    “Regardless of what the arrest was for, the officers don’t have the ability to say, ‘Well, this is a minor arrest, so we’re just going to ignore you.’”
    2. The video of the July 17 incident clearly shows Garner, an African-American, swatting away the arms of a white officer seeking to take him into custody, telling him: “Don’t touch me!”
    3. Garner, 43, had history of more than 30 arrests dating back to 1980, on charges including assault and grand larceny.
    4. At the time of his death, Garner was out on bail after being charged with illegally selling cigarettes, driving without a license, marijuana possession and false impersonation.
    5. The chokehold that Patrolman Daniel Pantaleo put on Garner was reported to have contributed to his death. But Garner, who was 6-foot-3 and weighed 350 pounds, suffered from a number of health problems, including heart disease, severe asthma, diabetes, obesity, and sleep apnea. Pantaleo’s attorney and police union officials argued that Garner’s poor health was the main cause of his death.
    6. Garner did not die at the scene of the confrontation. He suffered cardiac arrest in the ambulance taking him to the hospital and was pronounced dead about an hour later.
    7. Much has been made of the fact that the use of chokeholds by police is prohibited in New York City. But officers reportedly still use them. Between 2009 and mid-2014, the Civilian Complaint Review Board received 1,128 chokehold allegations.
    Patrick Lynch, president of the New York City Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, said: “It was clear that the officer’s intention was to do nothing more than take Mr. Garner into custody as instructed, and that he used the takedown technique that he learned in the academy when Mr. Garner refused.”
    8. The grand jury began hearing the case on Sept. 29 and did not reach a decision until Wednesday, so there is much testimony that was presented that has not been made public.
    9. The 23-member grand jury included nine non-white jurors.
    10. In order to find Officer Pantaleo criminally negligent, the grand jury would have had to determine that he knew there was a “substantial risk” that Garner would have died due to the takedown.
    11. Less than a month after Garner’s death, Ramsey Orta, who shot the much-viewed videotape of the encounter, was indicted on weapons charges. Police alleged that Orta had slipped a .25-caliber handgun into a teenage accomplice’s waistband outside a New York hotel.