tv The Situation Room CNN December 3, 2014 2:00pm-4:01pm PST
that way for a reason. it's just too difficult for police to police themselves. you can't expect clarity there. >> all right. sunny hostin, thank you very much. that's it for "the lead." i'm jake tapper. now i'll turn you over to wolf blitzer, he is in "the situation room." happening now, breaking news. no charges. a new york grand jury decides not to indict a white police officer in the death of an unarmed black man, who died after being put in an illegal choke hold. what evidence swayed the jury? bracing for protests. the case sparked demonstrations like this one in august. now officials are on alert as outrage over the grand jury decision appears to be growing. will demonstrations remain peaceful? echoes of ferguson. eerie similarities between the new york case and the case of michael brown. i'll talk about it with the brown family lawyer, benjamin crump. what's his reaction to this latest police killing controversy? i'm wolf blitzer. you're in "the situation room."
we're following the breaking news. echoes of figureson right now in new york city, where a grand jury has just decided not to charge a white police officer in the death of an unarmed black man. eric garner died in july after the police officer, daniel pent leo put him in a choke hold, a move prohibited by the nypd. meanwhile, president obama spoke about it a few moments ago. >> i am absolutely committed as president of the united states to making sure that we have a country in which everyone believes the core principle that we are equal under the law. >> cnn is covering all angles of the breaking news this hour with our correspondents, our guests, including the attorney for the family of michael brown, benjamin crump. he's here with me in "the situation room." let's begin with cnn's joe
johns. he's in new york. joe, what's the reaction where you are. you're in staten island, right? >> reporter: right, wolf. this is the location where that fatal altercation occurred back in july, between eric garner and dani pantaleo. there is a small crowd out here. if you'll take a look down the street, you'll see media intermixed with people standing on the street. we did see one demonstration coming through here. just a few people, probably a dozen carrying signs, chanting, no justice, no peace. all of this peaceful, at least so far, after that grand jury decision. tonight, new york city is bracing for protests after a grand jury decided not to indict police officer daniel pantaleo
over his actions in july, videotaped by a bystander. cries from eric garner, a 350-pound black man, and father of six, who was taken down by police, suspected of selling cigarettes, tax-free. pantaleo put garner in a choke hold, a move prohibited by the nypd. >> i can't breathe! i can't breathe! >> reporter: moments later, garner, who suffered from asthma, lies limp on the pavement. he's taken away on a stretcher and later declared dead by a new york city hospital. the cause of death was, quote, compression of neck, choke hold, compression of check and prone positioning during physical restraint by police. >> this was an arrest for an extremely minor crime and it certainly seems to many people that the police should pay a price for that kind of arrest ending in a death. >> reporter: following the grand jury decision, officer pantaleo released a statement, extending his condolences to the garner family. quote, it is never my intention
to harm anyone and i feel very bad about the death of mr. garner. it's a case that's drawing parallels to ferguson, missouri, where fiery protests erupted after a grand jury did not indict a white police officer, darren wilson, after he shot and killed the black unarmed teenager, michael brown. soon after his death, protesters in new york city called for justice for eric garner. trying to preempt a ferguson repeat, new york mayor bill de blasio says violence and property disruption will not be tolerated. >> people have a right to protest peacefully. and we will respect that right. but if we think public safety is compromised, the police will act very assertively to address that proble problem. >> reporter: now, back live. after that decision was reached -- back live, wolf. after that decision was reached,
the d.a. released a statement saying that he has applied for a court order, seeking authorization to further release public information about what happened in the grand jury. he said, until that time, he is bound by the law not to reveal anything else. a stark contrast to all the information that was released after the grand jury decision in ferguson, missouri. wolf? >> all right. already a tense moment there in new york city. joe johns, thanks very much. once again, we're standing by. we'll hear from the mayor of new york, bill de blasio, any moment now. you can see the cameras are all set. he's going to walk up to that microphone as soon as he starts speaking about this case. we'll have live coverage here in "the situation room." in the meantime, let's bring in cnn's justice reporter, evan perez. evan, the justice department here in washington is also looking into this specific case. is that right? >> that's right, wolf. they've already been doing an investigation quietly behind the scenes for some time now, for some months now. we expect that attorney general
eric holder will make a formal announcement of this investigation, probably later this evening. you heard the president mention that he had talked to the attorney general about this, and we know that the family had met with the loretta lynch, the u.s. attorney in brooklyn, who is also the nominee to secede eric holder. and she's -- her office is the one that's been doing this investigation, wolf. >> so, basically, what are they looking at? we know what the federal government, the justice department, is looking at in ferguson. civil rights violations, the history of the ferguson police department. what are they going to try to look at in new york city? >> well, you know, right now, it begins with this case, and whether or not the civil rights of eric garner were violated by this incident. and so that's where it begins, wolf. we don't know where they will take this all. we don't know whether there was any other incidents they'll want to take a look at. all of that is part of this investigation. >> all right. evan perez, thanks very much.
once again, we'll go to the mayor of new york, bill de blasio, as soon as he starts speaking in new york. in the meantime, let's discuss what's going on. benjamin crump, the attorney for michael brown's family, is here. he also represented, as a lot of our viewers will remember, the family of trayvon martin down in florida. mr. crump, thanks once again for joining us. were you expecting an indictment out of this grand jury here in new york, ben? >> i was. i was because of video. i talked to the family's lawyer, who we represent another unarmed african-american killed in new york. and we were saying the video there, it's going to be difficult for them not to indict him. but we know the system normally don't indict police officers for killing people of color. and we were troubled by the fact that they gave immunity to all the other officers except the officer who had the choke hold, and that was, in our minds saying, this doesn't seem right, because the coroner said the cause of death was the choke
hold, compression to the back, and other things. and the officer only had the throat, that they were looking to indict. the other ones also should have been looked at as well. so we were worried, but we thought, with this video, it was going to happen. on my social media account, wolf, everybody have been saying, you see attorney crump, you keep pushing for body cameras, that won't make a difference. we got all the video here, we just don't care about our lives, and i reject that. i do think the body cameras work. the videos work. it's not a problem with the videos, it's a problem with the system. and until we change this system, we're going to keep getting the same results and it's so unfair. >> because the grand jury, that was reviewing this over these past several months, what, about 24 members, and almost half of them, we described as, more than half were white, but the other, more than -- almost half were nonwhite. so it was a mixed grand jury that considered all the evidence that was presented by the attorney, by the prosecutor.
>> well, as an attorney doing it 20 years, what we say is what everybody knows. the grand jury will do whatever the prosecutor wants them to do. when you really think about it. if he presents the evidence in such a way to get an indictment, he would get an indictment. if he doesn't want an indictment and he presented it in such a way where he doesn't get an indictment, they're going to do what he does. they can indict a ham sandwich if they want to. and if they don't want to get an indictment, it's not going to happen. >> this officer does have a history of going after police officers who went beyond the law. >> is video is there and it's very telling that people are very troubled by it. i mean, people were upset in ferguson and they didn't have a video. we got a video and i think people are going to say, the system is just broke and we have to fix it, because it's not equal. the american justice system is built on trial by jury. and for that reason, we can never bring the police officers to trial.
>> it was 14 white jurors ton grand jury, nine non-white. they didn't break down the nine non-white. but 9 non-white, 14 grand juries who came up this decision to not indict. the patrol division issued a statement. it was clear 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. no police officer starts a shift intending to take another human being's life. your reaction? >> when you look at this video, he was not being aggressive, he wasn't posing a threat to them. so people look at this video, and whatever they say, people are looking with their own eyes. what was his alleged crime again? this is not right. we have to do something about this. and all these families from ferguson, the brown family, the family from cleveland as well as
the garner family on december 13th, reverend sharpton, and other civil rights groups are coming here to d.c. to say, we've got to change this system, because it's broken, and if we keep doing things over and over again and expecting different results, that's the definition for insanity. >> what they also argue is that the police officer, that he actually resisted when the police officers came to him, and they also argue that he had a history, the autopsy showed he had asthma, he was overweight, and all of that contributed to hist the tragic death. >> wolf, everybody gets a right to watch the video with their own eyes. what scenario can we present with our police officer will be indicted for killing a person of color? >> it has happened. there have been indictments of police officers. >> it is so extremely rare. >> i agree, it is very hard to indict a police officer in the line of duty, as we've saw in ferguson and now we see in new york city. it's hard for the grand jury, even if it is a mixed race grand
jury, if the -- and as you point out, if the prosecuting attorney is sort of ambivalent about it. >> and wolf, what we have is this thing, we've set up that says, every time a police is charged, they've got to go to a grand jury. why is that? why can't they be treated equally like the citizens? due process is just this notion that everybody is supposed to be equal. the little black boy lying dead on the ground and the police officer. so why do we change the rules when it's our children lying dead on the ground? we have to say to people, if we want them to have faith in the system, it's going to be based on the constitution, it's going to be transparent, and you get to see it all play out, so you'll see it's fair. when you have these secret grand jury proceedings, it builds the mistrust. and as president obama just said, we've got to do less talking and more acting to say we've got to do things differently. >> we'll hear what the mayor of new york, bill de blasio, has to say in a few moments as soon as he comes to the microphone. on the ferguson case, the stepfather of michael brown, he has now done what a lot of
people wanted him to do for days, to apologize, to express remorse over the ugly words that he said that night that the grand jury decision came down not to indict the police officer in ferguson. i know you've been involved in that. what took him so long to come out with that statement? >> well, i don't represent lewis. i think what you think about what they just went through the last few months, that was raw emotion that was done right there, when they heard the decision of the grand jury. nobody's condoning violence in any way, manner, or form, and nobody's saying that was appropriate, what he said. but we also don't condone the violent act of the police officers that shot his stepson. so i think, you see frustration boiling over. and i think you're going to see frustration here in new york. we've got to tell people they can trust the system. if not, you're going to see emo overwhelmed. >> i know you've got to run. you indicated to me there's going to be a march here in washington, d.c. that some of these families are now
organizing. tell us about that. >> yes. on december 13th, reverend sharpton and other civil rights leaders are going to have the family of michael brown as well as the amir family from cleveland, the 12-year-old young man who was shot, and the garner family and the girly family, the young man who they admitted was -- did nothing wrong and they shot him in the stairway in new york city, all come and lead a march here in washington, d.c., saying to our great institution of justice, we have to change the system. it got to be fair for everybody, because many, many people in the minority community does not believe that it's fair. >> benjamin crump, thanks very much for joining us. >> thank you for having me. >> good to see you when you're back here in washington. will you be here for that march? >> i will be here. i'll lead the lawyers with the national bar association. >> thanks very much for joining us. we'll take a quick break and resume our special coverage of the breaking news. we're standing by for the mayor of new york city, bill de blasio. he is going to speak out on this
decision by the grand jury in staten island, new york, not to indict the police officer in connection with a choking death of that man, eric garner. stay with us. we're also going to hear from the president of the united states. it's more than the driver. it's more than the car. for lotus f1 team, the competitive edge is the cloud. powered by microsoft dynamics, azure, and office 365, the team can gain real time insights and
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bill de blasio. he's supposed to come to the microphone literally any moment to react to this decision by the grand jury in new york. lots of tensions in new york right now as a result of this decision. our national correspondent, deborah feyerick is joining us. she's got new information. what are you learning, deb? >> reporter: well, wolf, tonight is the big tree lighting at rockefeller center. the nypd has made it very clear they're not going to tolerate a repeat of what happened in ferguson. that if there are demonstrators, they'll be orderly. but they are not going to condone or allow any of the events that happened in ferguson to happen in new york city. what they have done is they have taken police officers who work the day shift, they're extending those shifts by about four or five hours. they're going to station those officers at rockefeller center as well as times square at 42nd street, union square at 14th street, as well as near the brooklyn bridge. if the protesters want to cross over the bridge, they can do that. you're seeing a live picture right now of times square, relatively quiet right now. but the news is just filtering out. it's unclear how the events will play out or how many people will
come out to protest on this sort of rainy new york evening. but, again, the nypd saying that they've got the manpower, they're going to make sure that at the tree lighting, they've got those officers in place to protect both the protesters who are coming to demonstrate, the crowds who are there to watch the tree lighting, and they're going to make sure that there's no interruption of that tree lyinging ceremony this evening. so a very heavy police presence here in new york city, wolf. >> and as you say, they're keeping the police beyond their regular shifts, if you will, to make sure they have enough personnel on the ground. is that right? >> that's exactly right. so what they're doing, effectively, is doubling the strength of their officers in certain key locations to make sure things don't get out of hand. you know, the nypd is very adept at doing crowd control. they do it -- they just did it at the thanksgiving day parade, they do it every new year's eve, where they're able to pen people in. so they're accustomed to making sure that demonstrators are able to protest without anything sort of going sideways.
but they want to especially make sure that that's the case tonight, because you do have so many people from out of town here in new york city, hotel rooms are completely packed, completely sold out. and so it's very -- they just want to make sure that they keep the peace and allow people who are upset at the nonindictment to come out and voice their opinions. >> deborah feyerick in new york, thanks very much. as we await the mayor of new york, bill de blasio, let's bring in our panel, our senior legal analyst, jeffrey toobin, is joining us, along with our legal analyst, sunny hostin, and former fbi director, tom fuentes, and our cnn anchor, don lemon. jeffrey, this incident, as we've been pointing out and all seen by now, caught on videotape. yet the police officer, daniel pantaleo, was not indicted. none of us was in that grand jury room, where those 24 jurors were deliberating for these past several weeks, but explain why potentially they decided he
didn't commit a crime. >> well, the best i can determine is they thought that this was a legitimate arrest, that even though this was a very minor crime, selling cigarettes without paying taxes on it, they thought he was subject to arrest, he resisted, and the cops took necessary action. his death, presumably, the jury found, was due to the fact that he had these pre-existing medical conditions. he was overweight, he had asthma, and that led to his death rather than unlawful action by the police. >> tom, explain the use of choke holds. are they legal, illegal? i know that the new york city police department recommends they not be used at all. but go ahead, what do we know about a choke hold to try to subdue a suspect? >> first of all, wolf, it's actually a misnomer and not supposed to be a choke hold. it's supposed to be a sleeper hold. the forearm and by accept of the officer is supposed to cut off
the blood flow to the brain so the subject faints and then let go and cuff him without permanent injury. the police departments got away from it because of what happens here, and you see in the video, the officer' forearm is not on the side of the neck, cutting off blood flow, it's cutting off air on the front, it is choking him. so because of that, most police departments that have caught th taught that, and i was taught this years ago, but because there were so many accidents that people accidentally died, they've gone to not using it. it's not technically illegally, but it is against the rules of nypd to use it. >> sunny, when you heard the decision, what immediately went through your mind? >> ferguson. i mean, i was stunned, quite frankly, as a native new yorker. i really thought that there would be an indictment. that this wouldn't happen here. and i looked at the facts and i wrote them down. because the facts, as we know them, and perhaps the grand jury knew something else, you have eric garner unarmed, choked,
using a choke hold, which is a banned procedure, you have eric garner saying 11 times, "i can't breathe." you have a medical examiner who ruled it a homicide by choke hold. it's all on video. we see him die. and there's no indictment. >> sunny, how do you explain that? >> i can't explain it. it seems to me this screams for a doj investigation. it screams for a review of the grand jury process. because it seems to me that prosecutors that work day in and day out, with officers shouldn't be tasked with presenting an indictment or, if, you know, evidence for indictment in front of a grand jury. i don't think that this process works. you have to have a special
prosecutor, when you have police-involved shootings or police-involved deaths. it just -- when you listen to those facts, as i draw them out, this does not make sense to suggest that probable cause doesn't exist, that this video doesn't show, wolf, excessive force, an overreaction by the police department for is a minor infraction, is absurd. it's ludicrous. everyone should be concerned about this, outraged, sickened. just sickened. >> they are. >> well, let me bring don lemon into this conversation. so far, don, and it's been a few hours, the reaction on the streets of staten island in manhattan seems to be pretty calm. >> yeah. wolf, i worked this morning, went "ndid "new day," and woke to this news. and the doorman gave me that
look, here we go again. people on the street, same thing, here we go again. people on the subway, here we go again. here's what i want people to do is take the issue of race out of this. and take eric garner, of any ethnic persuasion on that ground. this is a case of excessive force. if you can't see that this went from zero to 100 in 1.5 seconds or in a short amount of time, for someone who was selling loose cigarettes, by the way, i can walk out of here, go to the bodega down the street and buy loose cigarettes, then you're not a human being if you can't see this. this is excessive force. this is about -- this bolsters the hands up pose that everyone has been doing around the country, that goes beyond ferguson. everyone says, it's a false narrative about ferguson. if you want to feel that way, fine. that's your business. but this bolsters that argument
there, that there is an issue when it comes to excessive force, with police officers that we need to deal with regardless of race. and it happens that african-american men are usually on the receiving end of this. >> jeffrey, the new york district attorney isn't coming to the microphones like the st. louis prosecuting attorney, robert mcculloch did, but he did put out a statement. in part, let me read it to you. i applied for a court order seeking authorization to publicly release specific information in connection with this grand jury investigation. that application is under consideration by the court and i am therefore constrained by new york law to reveal nothing further regarding these proceedings. so i take it new york law is a lot different than missouri law when it comes to releasing this kind of information that was presented before a grand jury. >> it is very different law. and it's worth pointing out that dan donovan is not the district attorney for all of new york. he is only the district attorney for staten island. and for people who are not from new york, they may not be
familiar with the politics of the city. staten island is by far the smallest and the most conservative of the boroughs. as you noted earlier, the grand jury in this case was a diverse group. but by the standards of new york city, staten island is clearly the most pro-cop area. in fact, lots of cops, lots of police officers, live in staten island. and i think the fact that this was a staten island grand jury and an equitied staten island district attorney may tell part of the story about why there was no indictment. >> we're going to take a quick break. we're awaiting the mayor of new york city, bill de blasio. he'll be coming to the microphone any minute. the panel will stick around. much more of our coverage right after this.
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that afflict us, in particular, our brothers and sisters who are members of the clergy, having devoted themselves to comforting and supporting people in all sorts of situations. yet tonight, there was a particular sense of challenge and of pain. i want to thank everyone who gathered together in common purpose. i want to thank bishop brown for hosting us, for his leadership. i want to thank speaker melissa mark and public advocate and tish james. i want to thank borough president jimmie otto. i want to offer a special thank you to council member debbie roads, who has been in the center of so much of what's happened in these past months, to help people understand what we had to do together to move forward, but also to listen and absorb the pain and frustration that so many people have faced. i know it has not been easy, council member, but i want to
thank you for your profound leadership. and to so many of the clergy that you've worked, who have been such important partners in reminding people that we have to find a way forward. and we have to find a way forward together by definition. it's a very emotional day for our city. it's a very painful day for so many new yorkers. that is the core reality. so many people in this city are feeling pain right now. and we're grieving. again, over the loss of eric garner, who was a father, a husband, a son, a good man, a man who should be with us and isn't. that pain, that simple fact is felt again so sharply today. i spent some time with ben garner, eric's father, who is in
unspeakable pain. and it's a very hard time trying to spend time trying to comfort someone you know is beyond the reach of comfort because of what he's been through. i can only imagine. i couldn't help but immediately think what it would mean to me to lose dante. life could never be the same tl thereafter. and i could feel how it will never be whole again, things will never be whole again for mr. garner. and even in the midst of his pain, one of the things he stopped, said so squarely was, there can't be violence. he said, eric would not have wanted violence. violence won't get us anywhere. he was so sharp and clear in his desire, despite his pain, i found it noble. i could only imagine what it took for him to summon that. no family should have to go through what the garner family
went through. and the tragedy is personal to this family, but it's become something personal to so many of us. it's put in stark perspective, the relationship between police and community. and this issue has come to the fore again, and we have to address them and address them with all our might. we can't stop. we have to act with the assumption it's all of our jobs to never have a tragedy again. that's what we have to fight for. this is profoundly personal for me. i was at the white house the other day, and the president of the united states turned to me and he met dante a few months ago, and he said that dante reminded him of what he looked like as a teenager. and he said, i know you see this crisis through a very personal lens. and i said to him, i did. because we have had to talk to
dante for years about the dangers that he may face. good, young man, law-abiding young man who never would think to do anything wrong, and yet, because of a history that still hangs over us, the dangers he may face, we've had to literally train him, as families have all over this city for decades. in how to take special care in any encounter he has with the police officers, who are there to protect him. and that painful sense of contradiction that our young people see first, that our police are here to protect us, and we honor that, and at the same time, there's a history we have to overcome because for so many of our young people, there's a fear. and for so many of our families, there's a fear. so i've had to worry over the years, and shirrlane has had to worry, was dante safe each night? there are so many families in this city who feel that each and
every night, is my child safe? and not just from some of the painful realities of crime and violence in some of our neighborhoods, but safe from the very people they want to have faith in as their protectors. that's the reality and it conforms to something bigger that you've heard come out in the protests in ferguson and all over the country. this is now a national moment of grief, a national moment of pain and searching for a solution. and you've heard in so many places, people of all backgrounds utter the same basic phrase. they've said, black lives matter. and they said it because it had to be said. it's a phrase that should never have to be said. it should be self-evident. but our history, sadly, requires
us to say that black lives matter. because as i said the other day, we're not just dealing with a problem in 2014, we're not dealing with years of racism leading up to it or decades of racism, we are dealing with centuries of racism that have brought us to this day. that is how profound the crisis is. and that is how fundamental the task at hand is. to turn from that history and to make a change that is profound and lasting. in the here and now, so many new yorkers will ask the question, what will happen next? they'll ask, will there be a full airing of these facts? will there be some investigation that means something to them? and i think the truth is important here.
one chapter has closed with the decision of this grand jury. there are more chapters ahead. the police department will initiate now its own investigation and make its own decisions about the administrative actions it can take. the federal government is clearly engaged and poised to act. just before the meeting began, the leaders here on staten island, i received a phone call from united states attorney general eric holder and from u.s. attorney loretta lynch. they made clear that the investigation initiated by the u.s. attorney would now move forward, that it would be done expeditiously, and it would be done with a clear sense of independence and that it would be a thorough investigation. it was palpable sense of resolve, the federal government will exercise its
responsibilities here and do a full and thorough investigation. and draw conclusions accordingly. we've experienced one challenge after another in these last weeks. the events of ferguson have most sharply framed this discussion nationally, for all of us here, what's happening in our own community is what we feel most deeply. it was hard for any one of us, as a human being, and particularly any of us who as a parent to not be deeply pained by the death of tamir rice in cleveland, 12-year-old boy. something that's very, very hard to fathom. and all of these pains add up and demand of us action. it is powerful, even in the midst of this pain that our
president is acting, it is powerful that our president is focused on changing our approach to policing. and focused on community policing, focus on the value of body cameras as a new tool for accountability and transparency. it's powerful that our attorney general is focused. these things will matter. these things will lead to change here in this city. change is happening, even in this moment, people are feeling pain and frustration and confusion. change is happening right now. and said in the meeting, change is happening because the people willed it to happen. we're leaders. we all strive to help our people, but the people willed this change to happen. the people believed the broken policy of stop and frisk had to end and it has ended. the people believed that there were too many young people of
color arrested and saddled with a record for the rest of their lives simply for a small amount of marijuana and that policy has been changed. the people demanded something different. it's my responsibility and the responsibility of everyone standing here with me to achieve that on behalf of the people. when i named commissioner bratten as our police commissioner, i know him to be -- i knew at the time and i've seen it even more since, i knew him to be one of the greatest reformers and change agents in policing in the history of this country. i have seen that ability and those values play out each and every day. i saw it today at the new york city police department academy. where not only did we talk about what body cameras will mean in terms of changing a relationship between a police community. we talked about the retraining of the entire police force. something that has never been done in this city before.
we talked about helping our officers to understand different ways to diffuse confrontations. we talked about bringing our officers closer to the community, from the point of their training, from the first moments of their experience as law enforcement officers. emphasizing the pashship they needed with the community. and i remind you, i have faith in commissioner bratton's based on the actions he has taken over decades. and also based on the clarity of his message, to all of us. he gathered his top commanders a few weeks ago. it was well reported. he said very publicly, the department will act aggressively to ensure that any officer who's not meant to be in this work no longer is. he talked about those who don't live up to the values of the uniform, who are quote/unquote
brutal. who are corrupt. who are racist, who are incompetent. this was our police commissioner making sure his standards, that people who sadly fit those descriptions would not be members of the nypd. these changes will matter. they will affect millions of people. they will take time, but that is not in any way an excuse or a willingness on our part to do anything but the fastest change we can. it's an honest leveling with our people that not every change can happen overnight. but they're happening resolutely and forcefully. more are happening every day. each change builds upon the next. there is a moment for change that will be felt in every neighborhood in this city. and again, it doesn't come first and foremost from city hall or from one police plaza, it comes from the people of the city who
have demanded it. this change is about the values of our people, the will of our people, the goodness of our people. that's where change comes from. and everyone has an opportunity to play a role in that change, by continuing to work for it. and that is across every community. i have to emphasize, and we've seen this all over the country, but i know it's true here, and i have experienced it from last year that i think is evidence. this is not just a demand coming from the african-american community. it's not just a demand coming from the latino community, it's coming from every community. it's coming from people all of faiths, who want a city of fairness. who want violence to end. who want no family to go through the tragedy the garners did. so people will express themselves now as they should in a democracy. i ask everyone to listen to what
ben garner said and what eric garner's son said as well. if you really want to dignify the life of eric garner, you will do so through peaceful protests. you will work relentlessly for change. you will not sully his name with violence or vandalism. that doesn't bring us closer to a better community. the only thing that's ever worked is peaceful protests, nonviolence social activism is the only thing that has ever worked. and the garner family has made that abundantly clear. michael brown's family made that abundantly clear. people should listen to those we say we stand in solidarity, fulfill their wishes, and work for change the right way. i'll just finish with a couple more points and i want to say something in spanish before i
depart. we, so many of us, are steeped in the teachings of dr. king, and many great leaders, but perhaps no one more definitional than the work of social change and the work of justice in dr. king. and he said something so fundamental that should remind us how we need to handle this moment. he said, injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. this is a problem for all new yorkers. this is a problem for all americans. it has to be treated as such. anyone who says to you this is a problem only felt by people of color or only pertinent to young people, what's going on here? it's all our problem. and anyone who believes in the values of this country should feel a call to action right now anyone who cares about justice,
that american value of justice, should understand, it is a moment a change must happen. change that's as good as the people that we represent. i just want to say in spanish -- [ speaking spanish ] >> so there you hear the mayor of new york city, bill deplasio, very emotionally, very passionately, speaking out about what's going on right now. strong words, indeed, from the mayor of new york. he's very, very upset about what's going on. on the other side of the screen, we're also seeing some demonstrations now that have developed in times square. a lot of people upset about this decision in new york not to go ahead and indict the police officer, daniel pantaleo in the choking death of the suspect in this particular case, eric garner. let's get some reaction to what
we just heard from the mayor of new york. jeffrey toobin, what'd you think? >> for a bit of background for people who aren't from new york, mayor de blasio is married to an african-american woman and they have a son, dante, whom the mayor referred to, who is, to all appearances, an african-american kid. so this issue has an obvious personal relevance to him and he referred to that several times. you know, it was obviously a heartfelt, mournful speech, because he did not appear satisfied with this decision. it was also, i thought, a very clear invitation to the united states department of justice to do a civil rights case, based on these same facts. and i think that is certainly going to be a top of mind issue for the u.s. attorney's office, which is currently headed by loretta lynch, who's nominated to be the attorney general.
>> yeah, if she's confirmed, as presumably she will be presumed by the united states senate. william brooks is on the phone, the president and ceo of the naacp. cornell, what's your reaction to this decision by the grand jury in new york? >> the decision is very saddening. we have the death of another young man at the hands of the police. as we think about eric garner and the lack of accountability in that case, michael brown and the lack of accountability in that case, even as the naacp trudges towards jefferson city on our journey for justice, it's just very sad. but i was heartened by the mayor's comments, the references to his son, dante, and the references to ferguson.
both of which put this in a larger one, that this problem of unjustified homicides at the hands of the police is part of a larger challenge. th and then the second part of this is, that the mayor put it in context of our children. our children irrespective of race, creed, color, ethnicity. these are, in fact, our children. i think that's important for us to remember and that we can't dismiss this as a matter of a grand jury indicting or not indicting without looking at this at a profound, profound legal, moral public policy challenge, the likes of which you simply cannot ignore. >> like the mayor, i know you've had that personal conversation
with your two sons who i've also met. it's a very important conversation for a lot of young people, obviously especially african-american young men who are about -- want to go on with what they're doing but they have to be precisely very careful. have you had a chance to speak with the family of eric garner? >> i have not. we communicated with them throughout new york naacp branches. but the pain that they're feeling, it really has to be felt by the entire country. when the mayor said he had to have conversations with his son, the same conversation with his son, the same conversation i had with my son, i'm reminded it can't be that we have a conversation about children without having training for our law enforcement.
there's a moral lack of equivalence there and legal lack of equivalence that's just hard to ignore. >> you're a lawyer, you're a graduate of yale law school. what do you want the federal government to investigate right now? we heard the attorney general told the mayor of new york they are going to investigate, they're going to look at this and come up with some decisions, in the mayor's words, expeditiously. what do you want them to look at? >> the justice department has to look at the fact that we have the use of a choke hold, which has been banned by the police department for decades. they have to look at this death in the context of this civilian being accused, being suspected of selling loose, unpacked cigarettes. and certainly in the context of
a massive stop and frisk policy that's been the plague of black and brown communities for years on end. we will call upon the justice department to use the full light of the civil rights division to determine whether or not there's been a violation here. but this is more than just one investigation. this is really a matter of a whole scale reassessment of the way policing is conducted in this country. but first and foremost, they have to seek justice for eric garner's family. because at the end oh f the day they've lost a son, a father, they've lost someone near and dear to them. and in a real sense, the entire country grieves. >> we heard the president, he spoke out today. does he need to do more? what do you want the president to do? >> i believe the president took
some very positive steps in terms of convening very distinguished and prominent members of the public policy community, young people in terms of his task force. the expenditure of funds for body cameras. but we need to be clear, this battle cannot be relegated or delegated, outsourced to congress. it is a challenge that has to be taken up in state capitals, at the municipal level and taken up by mayors, chiefs of police, as well as congress persons and the president of the united states. >> very quickly -- >> we have one out of every four americans reporting being mistreated by the police. this is a profound problem. >> very quickly, what is your message to the people taking to the streets even as we speak right now? >> what i would say by all
means, take to the streets, give full probe to your concern, sadness, outrage, but do it peacefully, do it nonviolently, reflect the highest moral and constitutional values of our country as we're trying to do on our journey for justice. there's no -- >> i've got to cut you off, but thank you very much. very eloquent comments from the president and ceo of the naacp. thank you very much for joining us. good luck on your march out there in missouri. we'll stay in close touch. >> thank you, wolf. >> thank you. we're going to continue watching the situation that's unfolding on the streets of new york. right now, getting new reaction to the grand jury's decision not to indict a white policeman in a choke hold death of an unarmed black man. hey matt, what's up?
i'm just looking over the company bills. is that what we pay for internet? yup. dsl is about 90 bucks a month. that's funny, for that price with comcast business, i think you get like 50 megabits. wow that's fast. personally, i prefer a slow internet. there is something about the sweet meditative glow of a loading website. don't listen to the naysayer. switch to comcast business today and get 50 megabits per second for $89.95. comcast business. built for business. happening now, breaking news. no indictment against a white police officer involved in the
choke hold death of an unarmed african-american man. we're getting new and angry reaction to the grand jury decision in new york. protests are heating up and officials are on alert for the possibility of violence. we're covering all the angles of this bombshell decision and fears it will fan racial tension across the u.s. with the outrage over what happened in ferguson, missouri still very fresh. we want to welcome our viewers in the united states and around the world. i'm wolf blitzer. you're in "the situation room." >> this is cnn breaking news. we're following the breaking news in new york city. there's shock and anger now that a grand jury decided not to charge a new york city police officer involved in a choke hold tape. a protest in times square is growing larger and how wouldlou now. officials are appealing for calm. we have newsmakers standing by with reaction, including the
national urban league president, we have our correspondents and our analysts in the field, and in the studio. we're covering the breaking story. let's get the latest from cnn's joe johns. he's joining us from new york. joe? >> reporter: hi, wolf. we are out on the street where that fatal altercation occurred back in july. white a few people out here on the street right now. so far it's been a peaceful fathering and a number of television cameras, as well. we did see a demonstration a little while ago. people chanting, "no justice, no peace." i talked to one man, an african-american man, in a suit and tie, telling me that as far as he's concerned, no matter what you wear, no matter how many demonstrations you hold, african-american men in this city and elsewhere are still subjected to stop and frisk and even worse. for his part, daniel pantaleo, the officer whose actions were before the grand jury, did
release a statement earlier today, expressing his condolences to the family. the attorney for eric garner also has said that, in his view, it is astonishing that the grand jury did not indict the officer on the facts as they staid. also, given the fact that there was video of the entire incident. as i said, it's been peaceful. however, the new york police department is on alert. they do have a number of officers available to catch up with any demonstrations should they occur on the streets. there's also a bit of concern about the christmas tree lighting at rockefeller center, which is scheduled to occur this evening. more police officers on stand by for that. wolf? >> joe johns monitoring the situation over there. stand by to you. protesters are also gathering in times square right now. what is it like?
>> reporter: hi, wolf. we started at times square where we had about 200 protesters. a crowd was joined by another group which doubled the size, and now you can see, after staying in times square and chanting and protesting there for a while, they have begun marching north. we know this is the general direction towards where that rockefeller tree lighting is supposed to happen tonight. people have been chanting, shut it down, shut it down! talking about the tree lighting. but at the same time, i want to point out people have been chanting. they've been raising a lot of signs, but they also have been very, very measured. they've been staying mostly on the sidewalks. they've been blocking traffic to let people cross the street. so people are very passionate about what's happening here. but at the same time, they are trying to make sure that this stays for now, what we've seen so far, a peaceful, loud, but peaceful protest. >> let's hope it stays that way in the coming hours.
thank you very much. there are also new calls for the justice department here in washington to investigate this entire case. our justice reporter evan perez is here. what are you learning? what did the attorney general of the united states, eric holder, what is he going to do? >> we expect to hear from him later in the day. the president said he talked to him and you heard mayor de blasio say he talked to the attorney general and eric holder's successor. they basically have been looking at this for several months. we expect to hear that they're now formally announcing an investigation that will look at this death but perhaps whether or not there's a bigger problem here with the new york police department. >> so there will be two separate investigations in new york, just as there are two separate justice department investigations in ferguson, missouri, whether or not eric garner's civil rights were
violated and whether or not there's something wrong with the new york police department. >> that's right. the attorney general has been hinting at this to congress. as you know, wolf, some family members that met with loretta lynch in august asking for this investigation to begin, they've, as you know, have been quiet on this. but now we know that they are going to formally launch an investigation. >> we have now idea how long it can take. the mayor said they hopes they can conclude these investigations expeditiously. >> the message that you see coming from the justice department repeatedly on this, you don't necessarily have to see an indictment of officers or see them in handcuffs or going to jail. but the bigger issue here is reform of police departments. i think that's the message you'll hear from the attorney general. >> evan perez, thank you very much. president obama says the death of eric garner in new york speaks to larger problems facing the african-american community and indeed the nation.
he spoke just a little while ago about the grand jury decision. >> this is an issue that we've been dealing with for too long and it's time to make more progress than we've made. i'm not interesting 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 ] >> let's bring in the president and ceo of the national urban league. and also joining us congressman lacey clay. thank you very much for joining us. mark, first to you. what is your reaction to the decision by the grand jury not to indictment the police officer? >> well, wolf, i had a chance to speak to eric garner's mother about two hours ago. they are outraged and crushed by the decision of the grand jury. i would say, wolf, the decision
of the grand jury defies common sense in this case. etch in america got an opportunity to take a look at a video which demonstrates that officers unnecessarily put a choke hold on eric garner, wrestled him to the ground. then another officer put his hand on top of eric garner's head, and then once he was in distress, there was even a failure to apply cpr or first aid to eric garner. this defies common sense. it's a travesty of justice. it's part of this disturbing pattern we're seeing where police officers who violate the civil rights of citizens are not held accountable by local district attorneys. >> as you know, marc morial, 23 members of that grand jury, 14 whites, 9 non-whites. so it was a mixed grand jury. >> one of the questions with all
of these grand juries is what was the posture of the prosecutor? did the prosecutor do, as prosecutors do in most cases, wolf, and that is present to the grand jury a recommendation that charges be brought as opposed to raising their hands and allowing the grand jury to function like a ruddersless ship. one of the concerns i have with the new york case is whether the criminal justice system operates differently when in fact the potential accused is a police officer. and when that police officer happens in both of these instances, in ferguson here to be white and the victim of the police officer's actions is a person of color. the criminal justice system, and these protests, the outrage that many have expressed, has to do with how the criminal justice
system has failed to respond. now, we've got another case here in new york. the tamir rice case with the 12-year-old boy, that tragedy in cleveland. so this is not the end, but this is the beginning of what i think the a broader conversation and a great deal of concern. we do need to heal the nation and build trust. but the core of this is that the justice system has to do a better job in these cases. >> congressman clay, do you think justice has been served in the garner case? >> not at all, wolf. and marc is absolutely correct. when it comes to police policing the police, and in this case, the eric garner case, and in ferguson, the michael brown case, police should not be the ones doing the primary investigation.
prosecutors, who work very closely on a daily basis with police, should not be the ones prosecuting in these instances. there needs to be some outside party, maybe a civilian review board or in conjunction with misor some other setup that actually delivers justice for americans. and in this instance, wolf, it's indicative that black lives don't count as much as other american lives. and i don't buy into that. and no one in this country should. and we should live under one system of laws, and not this imbalanced system of justice that we have witnessed over the last week. >> congressman clay, in our system of law and order, if you will, if a crime has been committed, the police investigate and the prosecutors
prosecute, right? >> except in these two cases. the perpetrators were police officers. so when you have police investigating other brothers, that is a problem. because it attacks their integrity. so therefore, we need to set up a better system to investigate these types of crimes. >> what about that, marc morial? >> let me offer this, wolf. in the case of darren wilson in ferguson, there is now a federal civil rights investigation being carried out by the justice department. in the case of eric garner, many of us have called for a federal investigation. and i think the policy change we need is when these cases arise, i think the local d.a. should
step aside and allow the federal government, the department of justice, to carry out the investigation at first instance. people say why? well, the federal prosecutors do not stand down in the cases of political corruption. they don't stand down in the cases of securities fraud. and i think to some extent, these d.a.s may be too close to the police and work more closely with the police, and that prevents them from really conducting what i would call a fair, impartial and independent review when these types of cases occur. so we've got to look at a policy change in this instance because of the pattern we're seeing in america today. >> you may not have heard, marc morial, but we have been reporting that very soon the attorney general eric holder is going to announce a separate federal investigation into what has happened in new york city,
just as the justice department is engaged in a separate investigation in ferguson, missouri, especially now that there's been no indictment there either. congressman clay, if there's a really high bar, if there's going to be an indictment of the police officer in new york or ferguson, for that matter, on civil rights charges, that's not an easy threshold to meet. >> no, it's not. but i do have confidence that the federal investigation can refute the facts as presented by mccullough the local prosecutor. it's apparent that there was an irregular proceeding of the grand jury, as he really flipped the script, wolf, by taking the state witnesses and questioning their credibility while defending the police officer.
that is not how grand juries function normally. and so i have a lot more confidence that the federal investigation will bring out the facts and it will be far different than the facts that were presented by mr. mccullough last week. >> he's the st. louis county prosecutor. go ahead, marc. >> wolf, i remind all the viewers in the case of rodney king, this was a federal investigation, indictment and successful prosecution after the state court proceedings failed. in another case here in new york, you have the very same thing, a federal investigation, which was successful in securing convictions of police officers after the state proceedings failed. and in the danzinger king case in new orleans, a federal prosecution took place by the justice department under eric
holder, which led to a conviction. that case is certainly on appeal the u.s. circuit. but there is a pattern of the justice department being successful, not with standing the high bar that many talked about. so i think people, we all should respect, and i believe the attorney general is doing the absolute right thing by conducting a separate and independent investigation. and it's consistent with what the justice department has done in the past where state systems do not seem to be able to or unwilling to bring about justice. >> we're going to ask marc morial to stand by, the president and ceo of the national urban league. congressman clay is going to stay with us. these are live pictures we're showing our viewers. not too far away from times square. looks like the marchers, the protesters have been stopped from moving forward. it looked like they were moving forward towards the rockefeller center where the lighting of the
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we're back with breaking news. protests now in new york city after a controversial grand jury decision in another racially charged police case. a white police officer is not being indicted in the choke hold death of an african-american man. let's check back in with our reporter monitoring the protests. what's the latest?
>> reporter: hi, wolf. we are on 6th avenue moving north. we're at about 51st street now. the group came from times square, stopped at 50th street right down the block from where the tree lighting ceremony is supposed to be happening. there were people calling for the ceremony to stop. the police are in the street, there are barricades up here. and no one tried to rush the barricades. so the crowd, after stopping there for a while, has continued to move forward. this is right here in midtown. there are shoppers and tourists who have come here for the candlelighting. it is potentially a big mess. we have people trying to get across the street. obviously they cannot, because the protesters are continuing to move north in midtown. >> we'll check back in with you. thank you very much. let's bring back the national urban league president marc morial, he's in new york.
he's joining us with missouri congressman lacey clay. thanks to both of you joining us. congressman, you heard president obama announcing more funding for body cameras, more training. but this incident in new york, it was all captured on video, 23 members of the grand jury decided not to indict. so what does that say about the value of videotape? >> well, that's the thing that really just amazed me is that you do have video and audio evidence. and this grand jury couldn't bring themselves to bring any charges on a group of police officers, from the evidence it suggests that they pretty much jumped on this guy, and beat him to death. and so it's displaying to me
that the grand jury couldn't bring back any charge. and it's disappointing, which talks about -- which talks to the fact that some americans still don't believe that black lives are worth the same as other american lives. >> either that or marc morial, or there's still a really high bar, if you're going to indict a police officer who is working in the line of duty. you really have to be 100% convinced that that police officer committed a crime. >> and you know, if that's the standard that's being applied, that's the wrong standard. the only standard for a grand jury to consider is whether there's probable cause to believe that a law has been violated. it's up to a petit jury, a trial on the fulmel merit to determin
if a crime happened. when a police officer is afforded absolute discretion, and that you've got to be 100% sure, then that means that the system is not working in a fair way. this case, as i said, defies common sense standard. because anyone and everyone, and you're replaying the video a number of times. this is why body cameras and dash cameras are part of the solution, but not the total solution. as you mentioned, in this case, we see it, obviously, and we think, we presume the grand jury saw this videotape. yet failed to indict. i also question the actions of the prosecutor. i think we need to delve into what the prosecutor did vis-a-vie the grand jury. did he, as we understand, do as mr. mccullough did, and in
effect not make a recommendation, not demonstrate any leadership towards the grand jury in so far as a recommendation for an indictment. if that's the case, i would venture to say these prosecutors may be committing prosecutorial malpractice. that is, treating these cases differently that they would treat any other case that they may investigate and present to grand juries any other day of the week, any other month of the year in a normal course of operations of a state prosecutor's office. >> marc morial is the former mayor of new orleans, now the president and ceo of the national urban league. thank you very much for joining us. congressman clay, thanks to you for joining us, as well. >> thank you for having me. much more on the breaking news coming up. republican congressman 350e9er king of new york is standing by live. they take us to worlds full of heroes and titans. for respawn, building the best interactive entertainment
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switch to comcast business today and get 50 megabits per second for $89.95. comcast business. built for business. >> >> we're following breaking news in new york city. no charges for a white new york city police officer accused in the choke hold death of an african-american man. let's bring back our panel. joining us, don lemon, the st. louis community activist john gaskin. he's been very active in the michael brown case, as well as the issue of police use of force. also with us, our legal analyst sunny hostin and our law enforcement an list tom fuentes. guys, thank you very much for joining us. does it make any difference, tom, and we did some checking on daniel pantaleo, the police officer involved, and eric garner, who is unfortunately dead right now, garner, presumably those police officers may have known this, a lengthy
criminal history, 30 arrests, had been arrested for selling untaxed cigarettes back in may of this year. he was arrested for selling untaxed cigarettes. should that play any role in what happened to him if >> the only thing that shows is he was arrested 30 times and lived to tell about it because apparently he went along with the police and went to the police station. in this case, for whatever, we don't know how long that discussion went on with the police. when we talk about body cameras, you have four officers on the street arguing with him to be arrested, to go into custody and he doesn't comply. we don't know how long that discussion goes or the debate. so the next question is, do the officers just say, well, sorry we bothered you, go about your business and leave? because the next step is going to be put hands on him and physically wrestle. >> sunny is that information normally made available to a grand jury, the criminal record of the dead individual, in this
case eric garner? also, the complaints, there are two lawsuits that have previously been filed against the police officer, daniel pantaleo. both of the plaintiffs, both suits they allege false arrests, civil rights violations, other charges. one of the suits from 2013, was dismissed in january of this year. the second suit from february of this year, remains open. is that kind of information normally made available to members of a grand jury? >> well, it depends if it's relevant, quite frankly, wolf. and the fact that eric garner was arrested, you know, over 30 times, we don't know what those arrests were for, all of those arrests. it matters whether or not it was relevant. did these officers know him in the community? did they know him to be violent? were the other arrests -- what were those other arrests for? but we know that this officer pantaleo did testify in front of the grand jury for over two
hours. so i would think that before the grand jury should have been the fact that twice he was sued twice for civil rights infractions, one case filed in 2012 was settled and the city paid out $30,000. that's still another case open. so if you have that kind of witness testifying in front of the grand jury, the person that is the target of the grand jury investigation, i would think that that information in and of itself is very relevant and should have been presented to the grand jury. >> don, led me read to you the statement that the police officer daniel pantaleo put out after the grand jury decision today not to indict him. i became a police officer to help people and to protect those who can't protect themselves. it's never my intention to harm anyone and i feel very bad about the death of mr. garner. when you hear about all this, what goes through your mind, don? you're there in new york city. >> uh-huh. it's sad. again, as i said, this is racial, but even if you take
race out of it, and that's the thing, even if you take race out of it, this is a case of excessive force. your eyes don't lie. you're looking at the video. so now you take all of the people who have complained about excessive force by police officers, you put it back into the equation, most of them are african-american in the city. wolf, i sat here in this very seat and i said i don't know about the rioting in new york city, but new york city will treat this differently. if you look at how mayor depalacdeplae blasio handled this, how the governor handled this, they're not tone deaf to this situation. they get it. if the people in ferguson had done this, they may not have had those riots. the mayor saying this doesn't come from days or years of racism or decades of racism. this comes from centuries of racism that we need to deal with
these practices. the governor sending out a statement ending by saying my thoughts and prayers are with mr. garner and his friends and i stand with the garner family and urge those wishing to voice their opposition to today's ruling to do so peacefully. these how you do it. he's say even if you don't agree with the ruling, however you feel about it, the best way to protest it is to do it peacefully. and the mayor saying the same thing. we've been talking about the mayor. he said the mayor has a black son. he's got a black wife and a black daughter. so he feels this situation, because he has children and he understands the pressures that those children are under and his wife as a matter of fact when they go out into the streets of new york city. this will be handled much differently than in ferguson. people around the country, cities and municipalities around the country, should take a lesson how new york has handled this. if you don't agree with it, i'm sure this will be dealt with.
the mayor promises to deal with it. he's promising that the police department and the commissioner will deal with this. this a lesson for ferguson and missouri on how to deal with this. >> clear reaction with what we're seeing in the aftermath of the grand jury decision in new york not to indict the police officer, clear differences what's happening in new york than in st. louis county, right, john? >> absolutely. you know, wolf, with the situation with michael brown, the prosecutor's argument was that there were shaky witnesses. he was concerned regarding some of their testimony. but with this, it's so different. this incident was caught on tape. america was able to be the eyewitnesss for this incident. you know, the parallel between what eric garner yelled out 11 times appears to be so common
what african-americans and black america are yelling out today, i can't breathe. black america can't breathe when they think about the countless number of african-americans killed every 28 days by law enforcement. it comes to mind, emmett till, mike brown, eric garner. this really, from my generation, wolf, really brings into question the viability, the confidence, the low level of confidence in the criminal justice system. you know, we think back to george zimmerman. so many people prayed for a conviction. now people in my generation are praying that there is even an indictment when it comes to law enforcement being held accountable for excessive force. i'm almost speechless when it comes to this. i'm astonished, and this is really a sad day for america, especially for our criminal justice system. wolf? >> sunny, could the district attorney in new york seek an
indictment from another grand jury or too late for that? >> a special prosecutor could seek an indictment. yes, you can impound another grand jury and present additional evidence. that does happen sometimes. i suspect sadly in this case that will not happen. i do think, though, when you hear that the justice department is investigating that that could be an avenue. we have seen very successful federal investigations, and fen prosecutions after unsuccessful state action. we've seen it with rodney king. we've seen it over and over again. so we know that loretta lynch is the u.s. attorney for the eastern district of new york. we know that our attorney general eric holder made it clear that there is an ongoing investigation and that is where this case is headed. it's headed to the federal level. i don't think that new york will deal with it anymore. >> sunny, thank you very much. excellent panel, as usual.
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the choke hold death of an african-american man. the grand jury's decision sparking some demonstrations in new york city. we've got some new video, pictures coming in from grand central station in new york. people are lying down, they're calling it a die-in. you can see that still photo right there at grand central station in manhattan. republican congressman peter king from new york is joining us. congressman, thank you very much for joining us. what's your reaction to the grand jury decision today? >> first of all, the death was tragic, and our hearts have to go out to the garner family. but i've been follow thing case from the start. you had a 350 pound person who was resisting arrest. the police were trying to bring him down as quickly as possible. if he had had not asthma and a heart condition and was so obese, almost definitely he would not have died. the police had no reason to know
he was in serious condition. people were saying that he said seven times, i can't breathe. but if you can't breathe, you can't talk. so police hear that all the time. they, in this case, a choke hold was not illegal. it is against department regulations, but as you look carefully, i don't think it was an intent to put him in a choke hold, because he does move the baton as he brings him down. people are saying very casually this was done through racial motives. there's not a hint anyone used a racial epithat. and the senior officer was an african-american female. the reason the police were there, the local business people were complaining about garner was constantly selling
cigarettes outside their establishments and creating a problem in the neighborhood. it was at the request of the community, the people in that minority community who wanted the police out there to remove him. so this was not any attempt by the cops to harass somebody, it was a request of the community that it be done. it was struggling business people trying to make a living. >> choke holds, i'm told are banned by the new york city police department. so why isn't the police officer in this case, daniel pantaleo, being held accountable if in fact he did engage in that choke hold? >> first of all, it's not illegal, it's against departmental policy. secondly, there's a debate whether that was a choke hold. i don't think there's any indication that they intended to choke him. you have a 350 pound guy who is resisting, and he's six inches taller than you, you grab him
where you can and bring him down. somebody before said they beat him. nobody punched or kicked him. you talk to any cop, the toughest thing to do is cuff someone that doesn't want to be handcuffed. remember, they didn't know this was being videoed. yet, there's no individual of racial remarks, no attempt to kick of punch him. all they tried to do was cuff him. to do that, you have to hold them. >> the allegation is that he was selling cigarettes without tax. that's a pretty minor crime. so the question is, was it excessive force to try to apprehend him with all these police officers surrounding him and using that kind of force? >> first of all, he wasn't going to go. once the police try to arrest someone and they resist, they have to arrest him. they were there at the request of the minority business owners in the community who felt this
man was interfering with their business. so they were there serving a purpose for the local community. again, he was resisting arrest. once he started resisting, they had no choice but to bring him down. and i don't think there's any evidence, any indication that they wanted to choke him or wanted to kill him or cause any severe harm at all. >> is it appropriate that eric holder, the attorney general of the united states, is about to formally announce a federal justice department investigation into what happened? >> i don't see how there's any civil rights violation here. i think it should be kept in mind, wolf, that no one has done more to save the lives of young african-americans than the nypd. there are thousands of young african-americans alive today because white and black police officers put their lives on the line every day, going into the toughest neighborhoods to protect them. in the last 20 years, there's been a 70%, 80% reduction in murders, the overwhelming majority were committed against african-americans.
that should be brought out and made clear. the greatest beneficiaries of the nypd are the african-american community. and president obama, if he's serious about trying to bring racial peace to this country, the last thing he should be doing is having al sharpton sit in the white house. when he says that people in the african-american community don't trust the police, one of the reasons is because al sharpton is attacking the police before he knows the fact. >> congressman king, thank you very much for joining us. >> thank you, >> when we come back, we'll hear from the president of the united states. what did he say today about the grand jury decision in new york?
take a look at. this live pictures coming in from north caroliew york city. protests after a grand jury decided not to indict an officer after a chokehold on a suspect. president obama said he is dedicated to make sure everyone in the united states is equal under the law. michelle kazzinski is joining us now. what else did he say. >> this was a lengthy statement by the president today and speaking before tribal leaders. this wasn't an appeal for calm as we see surrounding ferguson and the announcement of a federal investigation but we heard the mayor of new york say he was told there would be a formal investigation. here is the president. >> i just got off the phone with
my attorney general eric holder and he will have specific comments about the case in new york and i want everybody to know here and everybody reviewing 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, this they have the right to come home just like we do from our jobs, that there is real crime out that they've got to tackle, day in and day out, but that they are
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 do not have confidence that folks are being treated fairly. and in some cases those may be misperceptions but in some cases that is a reality. and it is incumbent upon all of us as americans, regardless of race, region, faith, that we recognize this is money american problem and not just a black problem or a brown problem or a native-american problem or an american problem, when anybody in this country is not being treated equally under the law, that is a problem and it is my job as president to help solve it. >> for now the white house isn't commenting on the federal investigation into the case that we expect to be announced soon. but the president said that the federal government will continue to skrupulously investigate
cases where there is a question of impartiality and accountability. >> thank you, michelle. and let's bring in van jones. you used to advise the president in the white house. if he were to ask you for advice, what can he do to resolve these tense issues right now? >> well first of all, i want to applaud the president and governor cuomo and mayor de blasio. they struck the right tone. you didn't see that happen in ferguson. you did see it tonight. one of the things i think the president needs to try to communicate people is that any system that does not have adequate checks and balances will tend toward corruption and abu abuse. that is not against the police. why do we have meat inspectors? not because we hate the butchers but we have to oversee them and make sure they do say good job. and why do we have construction
protectors. there is something wrong with law enforcement where we expect police and prosecutors to police themselves with no good checks and balances. you can say what you want to about mike brown, this case is a case where you did not see somebody grabbing a gun, you did not see someone being violent back. you saw somebody that didn't want to go to jail but he said i can't breathe 11 times and it was on video and yet the whole world saw it and still that is not a crime. so i think the president needs to make sure that the public understands, this is about making policing better and strengthening policing. if you have a generation of young people and you look at the people out there protesting, mostly young people who begin to believe that we now have impunity, that law enforcement can be above the law, that the police don't have to obey the law, that is dangerous for any country. so this was a shocking decision. i'm proud that those young people are out there,
multi-racial, not just african-american, but african-american and white, peacefully tonight. i'm proud that our governor, mayor and president all spoke well. but this case i think shocked the conscious of a lot of people. and i'm proud the president spoke out. >> the attorney general of the united states eric holder about to speak out himself. announcing, presumably, there will be federal investigations into what happened in new york. very quickly, van, what would you like him to say? >> well he needs to be clear that there is a role for the federal government here. if you remember rodney king back in '92, the local law enforcement tried to police itself and the jury came back out of simi valley and said fine with us. the feds stepped in under george h.w. bush and brought charges and got a conviction there. and so this is totally appropriate and he needs to explain the background, george h.w. bush did it with rodney king and this administration should do it. if this is not an extraordinary
act on the part of the presidency, this is normal, we have three levels of government, it is time for the feds to step in. >> van jones. thank you very much. we'll stand by to hear from the president of the united states. this is it for me. i'm wolf blitzer in "the situation room." erin burnett "outfront" starts right now. >> breaking news, a grand jury decides not to indictment after the chokehold of a suspect by a police officer in new york. and in new york city, police gearing up for major protests. we are live around the city for you. and the president promised change in the wake of ferguson, now with another federal investigation underway, how will this time be different? let's go "outfront." good evening. i'm erin burnett. and "outfront" tonight, breaking news, people across new york city