Statement of Seymour W. James, Attorney-in-Chief of The Legal Aid Society, and Deborah Wright, President of UAW 2325 - Association of Legal Aid Attorneys
FRIDAY, JULY 17, 2015

One year after Eric Garner, a son, husband and father, was choked to death by Officer Daniel Pantaleo, we still can't breathe. Despite the City entering into a civil settlement with his family earlier this week, we still can't breathe because no criminal charges have been filed. Because the officers who unjustifiably killed our client have not been disciplined and continue to work at the NYPD, we still can't breathe.

Because the City refuses to admit that "broken windows" policing is not good policy and results in the continued over policing of communities of color, we still can’t breathe. Without transparency and public accountability of the police, we still can’t breathe. While 16 and 17 year-olds are treated as adults in the criminal justice system despite scientific research proving they are children who need services, not prison, we still can’t breathe. When tens of thousands of this City's residents, especially our youth, are homeless, we still can't breathe. While trans people continue to be arrested for prostitution based solely on how they dress and identify, we still can’t breathe.

As the oldest and largest law firm for the poor with an annual caseload of over 300,000 individual cases and legal matters in New York City, The Legal Aid Society and the unions that represent the attorneys and staff defending our clients still see injustice all around us.

It is time for change. We demand that Officer Daniel Pantaleo be fired from the NYPD. We demand that the officers and medical personnel that stood by and watched Eric Garner gasp his last breath, without offering any assistance, be fired. We call on the United States Justice Department to initiate an investigation and bring charges against Officer Pantaleo and all police officers and medical personnel who were involved in this horrible act. We implore the Court to grant our motion to unseal the minutes of the grand jury investigation into the killing of Mr. Garner. We demand justice. Without it, we still can’t breathe.