Politics

Here's The Most Powerful Congressional Press Conference We've Seen In A While

December 4th 2014

By:
Mike Vainisi

"I’m struggling because I’m a father of two young African American boys, and I don’t know what to say to them about what’s happening in this country right now. We’re better than this as a country.”

Those are the words of Rep. Hakeem Jefferies today at an emotional press conference of members of New York's congressional delegation. The press conference was called to express dismay over a New York grand jury's decision not to indict the police officer responsible for James Garner's death.

"Eric Garner did not deserve to die," Jefferies said. "He was placed in a choke hold that is illegal. His death was ruled a homicide by the medical examiner. He begged for his life. He said over and over and over again that he could not breath There were multiple officers on the scene who did not intervene and he was killed in plain sight for all of America to see, because this was captured on video. And so it’s inexplicable that this grand jury could not return a single charge."

These members of Congress also called on Attorney General Eric Holder to bring federal charges for civil rights violations in this case. Rep. Yvette Clarke called on Holder to do whatever is in his power in this case.

"I am just devastated. I can't believe in 21st century in the United States of America, we cannot get a simple indictment for the murder of a man that was caught on tape," Clarke said. "This is such an extraordinary blow to the justice system of this nation, to all of us as Americans. We should all feel aggrieved by this miscarriage of justice."

She also issued an emotional appeal talking about her three nephews, expressing disbelief that "in the town in which they were born and raised, their lives can wiped out in the twinkling of an eye and there can be no indictment."

Rep. Gregory Meeks, a former New York City prosecutor who handled various criminal cases, brought a unique perspective on the strangeness of this grand jury decision, explaining that the tape of the killing itself was enough to establish probable cause for an indictment. He is calling for the district attorney to release all of the materials related to the investigation. Rep. Eliot Engel agreed.

"I generally don't question grand juries," Engel said. "But I have to tell you, this one doesn't pass smell test to me."