Wednesday's stunning grand jury acquittal of the officer who put Eric Garner in a chokehold — a mere nine days after the Ferguson grand jury's similar acquittal of Darren Wilson — ignited a spate of outraged protests across New York City, whose residents took to the streets to display their frustration and disgust. The following morning, the New York Daily News' front page cover, "WE CAN'T BREATHE" against a somber black backdrop and a picture of Garner with his hands up while being held by Officer Daniel Pantaleo in a chokehold, summed up the paper's fury at the decision.
Local newspapers bombarded the newsstands with front page coverage of the acquittal. The New York Post, in comparison, had a different take on the grand jury decision — its front page, screaming "IT WAS NOT A CRIME" and "Protestors shut down traffic" served many New Yorkers a grim perspective of those who believe the officer's chokehold was justified.
Both local dailies are fierce rivals, but, clearly, cater to different audiences. The Daily News' headline was in reference to Garner's last words — "I can't breathe," which he repeated over and over as an NYPD officer continued to keep him in a stranglehold. Unlike the Ferguson case, this incident was captured on video — making it crystal clear as to how it unfolded, and the grand jury's decision even more difficult to swallow.
Other newspapers local to the state led with the grand jury ruling as well, though none quite followed the Post's audacious take.
Newspapers outside New York also covered the story on their front page, reflecting the gravity of the decision and widespread concern of the troubling justice system.
The Staten Island grand jury's absurd ruling led the city's mayor, Bill de Blasio, to release a statement urging non-violent protests. But the mayor also said righting racial injustice was a nationwide issue:
The problem of police-community relations and civil rights is not just an issue for people of color – or young people – or people who get stopped by police. This is a fundamental issue for every American who cares about justice.
The video evidence clearly showed that Officer Pantaleo continued choking Garner, who suffered from asthma and heart conditions, despite him pleading for air — pleads which turned out to be his last words. U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder has announced that the federal justice department will conduct an "independent, thorough, fair and expeditious" investigation into the case.
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