New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio was targeted with hecklers shouting “Fire Pantaleo” at the second night of the Democratic presidential debates in Detroit.
The disruption forced New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker to pause his opening statement Wednesday night. Video shows several people being escorted out of the city’s historic Fox Theatre as they continued to shout.
Daniel Pantaleo is the New York City police officer officials opted not to charge in the death of Eric Garner. He is accused of using an illegal chokehold on Eric Garner five years ago. Garner’s family and others have demanded that de Blasio fire Pantaleo after federal prosecutors announced they would not bring civil rights charges in the case.
“Don’t sit there and say you want to create a more equitable society for everyone while back at home you are allowing police officers to kill without any recourse or accountability,” said Kirsten John Foy, the northeast regional director of civil rights nonprofit National Action Network, after being kicked out for protesting. “Eric Garner was choked to death after having screamed out ‘I can’t breathe’ eleven times and this man was the mayor when it happened and he’s the mayor today and he’s allowed Daniel Pantaleo to continue to enrich himself.”
De Blasio has said Pantaleo is entitled to due process, but has not indicated whether he believes Pantaleo should lose his job. He said the decision whether to fire Pantaleo is up to Police Commissioner James O’Neill, who will decide by Aug. 31 after he receives a report from the administrative judge overseeing Pantaleo’s departmental hearing. Potential punishment ranges from loss of vacation days to termination.
On the debate stage Wednesday night, de Blasio criticized the federal government for its lengthy investigation into Garner’s death. He said the state couldn’t proceed with the case until the federal investigation finished.
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand also chimed in on the issue, saying if she was the mayor, she’d fire Pantaleo.
“He should be fired, he should be fired now,” she said.
Immigration protesters also interrupted the debates, unfurling a banner that read “stop all deportations on day one” as Joe Biden spoke.
Earlier in the day, the protesters blocked traffic at the Windsor Tunnel — an international crossing between Detroit and Canada.