A Staten Island grand jury decided that, based on the evidence presented to them, a white police officer who used a controversial tactic will not be criminally indicted for the death of an unarmed black man, triggering protests in New York City and across the United States.
The incident, which happened back in July and was captured on videos, involved NYPD officer Daniel Pantaleo, 29, using a technique known as the chokehold on Eric Garner, 43, which led to Garner's death. According to Greg Botelho and Ben Brumfield of CNN, it shows how minorities are treated differently in the eyes of the law.
"People are enraged, people are losing faith in the justice system because they are seeing it with their own eyes," film director Spike Lee told CNN. "... Hope is not working. It doesn't look like hope has been part of the grand jury ... in Ferguson and Staten Island."
The video, which is available on YouTube and has garnered millions of hits online, shows Garner being tackled by several police officers on suspicion of selling "loose" cigarettes. Garner, who has asthma, repeatedly cries "I can't breathe!" to the officers; he later died in hospital shortly after the video was taken.
According to J. David Goodman and Al Baker of the New York Times, the decision came barely a week after another grand jury, this time in Ferguson, Mo., did not move forward with criminally indicting police officer Darren Wilson, who shot and killed Michael Brown, 18. Both events center on police actions that have ended in tragedy.
Melanie Eversley and Mike James of USA Today reported that protests regarding the grand jury's decision erupted in the New York City boroughs of Manhattan and Staten Island as well as places including Philadelphia, San Francisco, Atlanta and Clayton, Mo. Thousands of people showed up to those protests.
CNN reports that protestors took to the streets and sidewalks of Times Square, chanting "I can't breathe" in unison. Other people, including Lee and his son, joined the demonstrations, which had a diverse crowd.
"This has nothing to do with black and white," Lee said. "This is New Yorkers together."
At a speech in Washington, President Obama weighed in on the grand jury decisions in both New York and Ferguson.
"When anybody in this country is not being treated equally under the law, that is a problem," Obama said, "and it's my job as president to help solve it."
The president added that the decision made by the New York grand jury will spark strong reaction from the public.
"This is an issue that we've been dealing with for too long, and it's time for us to make more progress than we've made," Obama said. "And I'm not interested in talk, I'm interested in action."
USA Today reported that the medical examiner had ruled Garner's death a homicide. In New York, the charges could have ranged from murder to reckless endangerment.
At the federal level, the U.S. Justice Department has opened a civil rights probe into the case, according to CNN. The New York Police Department is also conducting its own internal investigation in regards to Garner's death.
"If there's a finding of guilt, a decision will be made as to an appropriate penalty or discipline for that," Commissioner William Bratton said.