A handful of students have demanded that the New York City Police Department pay them damages and a “real justice” in the chokehold death of a black man, as part of a growing wave of protests over police brutality.
The protests, which began in April, have led to the deaths of dozens of people, including at least two NYPD officers, since the choke hold death of Eric Garner in New York on Aug. 19.
“If we don’t pay our money to the city, we’re going to fight to the end of our lives,” said Jessica Green, a senior at Manhattan Law School.
The students say the NYPD’s use of chokeholds is not a valid use of force under the law, and that they are “shocked” to hear the department claims that the incident was “not a legitimate use of a chokehold.”
The group of students, including Brooklyn Law School grad and lawyer James O’Keefe, said in a statement that they will be working on a lawsuit against the NYPD for its “unconstitutional use of this chokehold technique” in their case against the officers involved.
The protesters’ call for “real, equitable justice” has not gone unnoticed, as some New Yorkers are taking to social media to voice their frustration.
The hashtag #NYCChokeholds was trending on Twitter early Wednesday, as thousands of people expressed outrage at the deaths, many of whom say they were choked during the incident.
In addition to demanding compensation, the protesters also want the city to release the videos and video evidence of the incident and “immediately release the names of the officers.”
In the first video of the confrontation that captured Garner’s death, one officer can be heard telling Garner, “I can’t breathe, you’re choking me.”
Green told NBC New York that she saw the officers’ comments and immediately thought they were joking.
She added that the officers seemed to have little fear of Garner, and seemed to be laughing at the incident at the time.
Green, who is black, said she was surprised to learn that the NYPD has not released the video footage, and called on the city not to release it.
Green said she did not know the names and circumstances of the other officers involved in the incident until they were released from jail.
“The video doesn’t show them doing anything wrong, it shows them being in fear of me,” she said.
“It was not a legitimate chokehold.
If they don’t release the video, then I’m not going to be able to get any money out of them.”
As for the other two officers involved, O’Malley said he and Green had no idea the choke holds were in use.
“When I was walking away, I think I was about 3 feet away, and they kind of just stopped,” he said.
“I didn’t know if it was a real chokehold, but I think it was.”
The NYPD did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The protest group, which has since called itself the #NYChokeHolds, said that they have been working with attorneys to obtain a court order for the release of the video evidence and any other relevant evidence, and will hold their first demonstration on Wednesday.
In a statement released late Wednesday, the group called on other groups and other activists to “take part in the protests, as well.”
“The #NYchokehold is about accountability, accountability for police, accountability of the police and accountability for the NYPD,” the statement said.