Protesters call for firing of cop accused of killing Eric Garner as de Blasio takes debate stage

Protesters call for firing of cop accused of killing Eric Garner as de Blasio takes debate stage
© Getty Images

Protesters at the Democratic presidential primary debate on Wednesday night erupted with calls for the firing of New York police officer Daniel Pantaleo, the man blamed for the death of Eric Garner, as Mayor Bill de BlasioBill de BlasioFear first, education last? MSNBC contributor Maya Wiley departs network to explore New York mayoral run NYPD has arrested at least eight for vandalizing Black Lives Matter memorial MORE took the stage.

“Fire Pantaleo, Fire Pantaleo,” protesters could be heard shouting in the audience of the Fox Theatre in Detroit as de Blasio delivered his opening statement.

De Blasio's official Twitter account responded minutes later, saying "this is what democracy looks like."

The protesters continued to chant as New Jersey Sen. Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerOVERNIGHT ENERGY: EPA rule extends life of toxic coal ash ponds | Flint class action suit against Mich. officials can proceed, court rules | Senate Democrats introduce environmental justice bill Senate Democrats introduce environmental justice bill Overnight Defense: Guardsman to testify Lafayette Square clearing was 'unprovoked escalation' | Dems push for controversial Pentagon nominee to withdraw | Watchdog says Pentagon not considering climate change risks to contractors MORE (D) took the floor to deliver his opening statement, prompting him to pause at one point before the protesters were eventually removed from the theater.  

Booker also praised the protesters in a tweet shortly after the demonstration, however, saying: "To the folks who were standing up to Mayor de Blasio a few minutes ago—good for you. That's how change is made."


The protest comes weeks after news broke that prosecutors would not be charging the officer for the 2014 death of Garner.

In footage from the incident that sparked widespread protest against police brutality, Pantaleo could be seen placing Garner, an unarmed black man, in a headlock during an arrest. He was being arrested on allegations he was selling untaxed cigarettes.

Garner could be heard saying, “I can’t breathe,” in his final moments.

Booker earlier criticized the Justice Department’s decision not to charge Pantaleo in the 2014 case, and asked Attorney General William BarrBill BarrTrump prizes loyalty over competence — we are seeing the results Rep. Raúl Grijalva tests positive for COVID-19 'Unmasking' Steele dossier source: Was confidentiality ever part of the deal? MORE’s office for a explanation of the “disturbing decision” in a letter. 

“It’s difficult to put into words how deeply alarming it is that a NYPD officer used a violent and prohibited practice in arresting a man who was thought to be selling untaxed cigarettes,” Booker wrote. “That such a minor violation resulted in that man’s death should keep all of us up at night.”

“This is yet another disappointing sign that our criminal justice system is tragically broken. It’s why many people – particularly people of color – feel as if the system is stacked against them without hope of accountability, even when a violent and unnecessary homicide is captured on video, for all the world to see,” he added at the time.

De Blasio has faced mounting pressure in the weeks following the Justice Department’s decision for refusing to say whether the cop should be fired.

Bronx Assemblyman Luis Sepulveda told The New York Post on Wednesday that the mayor would’ve fired the cop “immediately” but said “unfortunately, these are things he cannot do, legally.”

“I have no doubt that if due process permitted an immediate firing, I believe the mayor would have fired him immediately,” he said.