New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio gave a very personal reaction to the grand jury’s decision not to indict the New York officer who placed Eric Garner in a chokehold, which resulted in the Staten Island father’s death.
The mayor traded in an opportunity to speak as a politician and instead spoke as a father on Wednesday as he reacted to the fact that the man responsible for Garner’s death will be a free man.
For de Blasio it served as a chilling reminder that his son and a countless number of other Black men across the nation, could be next to die at the hands of the officers who are sworn to serve and protect them.
“We’re grieving again….” the mayor said as he addressed the crowd.
It’s only been a matter of days since a grand jury decided not to indict officer Darren Wilson, the Ferguson, Missouri police officer who fatally shot and killed Michael Brown, in the killing of the 18-year-old’s death.
“I couldn’t help but immediately think what it would mean to me to lose Dante,” he said. “Things would never be the same again.”
Through a shaky voice, he went on to say that the Garner family will “never be whole again” and it’s all due to a “painful contradiction” that Black families have to face every day.
De Blasio explained that every night he has to worry about his own son’s safety despite the fact that he is a “law abiding young man.”
He said that every time Dante leaves home he and his wife, Chirlane McCray, who is a Black woman, have to hope Dante is safe “not just from painful realities of crime and violence” but hope that he, and other Black men across the nation, will also be safe from “the very people they want to have faith in as their protectors. That’s the reality.”
He also made a reference to the Cleveland officer who shot and killed 12-year-old Tamir Rice for holding a toy gun and explained that he is deeply saddened by the fact that the phrase “Black lives matter” even has to be repeated by protesters all across the globe.
“Black lives matter is a phrase that should never have to be said,” he continued. “It should be self-evident…but our history requires us to say it.”
In the midst of what seems to be an endless string of tragedies, the mayor did promise that changes are on the way.
For the first time, he claimed, discussions about retraining the entire New York police force have been taken seriously and officials are focusing on bringing “officers closer to the community” and “emphasizing the partnership” that officers have to have with those they are meant to serve and protect.
Any officer who is “brutal” or “corrupt” or “incompetent” will be weeded out and relieved of their duties, the mayor promised.
As he announced the changes that he and Police Commissioner Bill Bratton hope to bring to law enforcements, he also took the time to let the community know that these discussions would have never happened without them.
“Change is happening right now because the people willed it to happen,” he said. “The people believed the broken policy of stop and frisk had to end…the people demanded something different.”
The mayor also addressed anyone who believes that the problems that have been highlighted in Ferguson and New York are only issues for the Black community to face.
“Anyone who believes in the values of this country should feel called to action right now,” he said after stating that people of all backgrounds should want to see “a city of fairness.”
The mayor also said that he had recently received a phone call from U.S Attorney General Eric Holder and his designated replacement Loretta Lynch, promising that their investigation into the Garner case will move forward “independently” and that they will conduct a “thorough” analysis of the facts of the case as they decide whether or not Garner’s civil rights were violated.