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'Jesus Would Be Right Here,' Declares Seminary VP in NYC's Massive Protest Over Eric Garner's Death

Foley Square, Protests, NYPD, Eric Garner
Protesters gather in Foley Square in lower Manhattan in New York City demanding justice for the death of Eric Garner December 4, 2014. |

NEW YORK – Thousands of New Yorkers moved by the tragic chokehold death of 43-year-old Staten Island father of six, Eric Garner, at the hands of NYPD police officer Daniel Pantaleo, and the failure of a grand jury to bring criminal charges against him, flocked to the streets for the second night in a row Thursday to call for change in a justice system they believe is rife with racial bias.

Standing in solidarity with similar protests across several U.S. cities, New Yorkers of all ages and races from a variety of religious, academic and civil rights organizations gathered with many others to demand change.

The Rev. John H. Vaughn, executive vice president of the Auburn Theological Seminary, who was among the protesters, said it was important for Christians to get involved in the movement.

"I think it's important," he said while standing at the intersection of Broadway and Chambers streets where protesters had halted traffic and motorists honked their horns in support as the spectacle of civil unrest unfolded.

"Christians are called to love everybody. Christians are called to stand for the people. Jesus is about the marginalized, Jesus was about the poor, Jesus was about the oppressed, Jesus was about those who are not always valued and this in particular (Eric Garner) is someone who was not valued. Jesus would be right here," said Vaughn.

eric garner protest
The Lower Manhattan skyline, including One World Trade Center, is seen in the background as protesters, demanding justice for Eric Garner, enter Brooklyn off the Brooklyn Bridge in New York December 4, 2014. Protesters swarmed streets of Manhattan and other cities for a second night of mostly peaceful rallies to denounce a New York grand jury's decision to spare a white police officer from criminal prosecution in the choking death of an unarmed black man. The reaction to Wednesday's decision not to indict officer Daniel Pantaleo for his role in the videotaped confrontation that left 43-year-old Eric Garner dead echoed a wave of outrage sparked nine days earlier by a similar outcome in the fatal shooting of an unarmed black teenager by a white policeman in Ferguson, Missouri. |
eric garner protest
A female protester, demanding justice for Eric Garner, plays the tambourine as she and others enter Brooklyn over the Brooklyn Bridge in New York City December 4, 2014. Protesters swarmed streets of Manhattan and other cities for a second night of mostly peaceful rallies to denounce a New York grand jury's decision to spare a white police officer from criminal prosecution in the choking death of an unarmed black man. The reaction to Wednesday's decision not to indict officer Daniel Pantaleo for his role in the videotaped confrontation that left 43-year-old Eric Garner dead echoed a wave of outrage sparked nine days earlier by a similar outcome in the fatal shooting of an unarmed black teenager by a white policeman in Ferguson, Missouri. |
eric garner protest
Demonstrators fill 7th Avenue in Times Square as they protest a grand jury decision not to charge a New York policeman in the choking death of Eric Garner, in New York December 4, 2014. U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder on Thursday promised a full investigation into a white New York police officer's role in the choking death of Garner, following a night of protests over a grand jury decision not to bring charges in the incident. |
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Despite the freezing weather, an estimated 10,000 people gathered in Foley Square, Lower Manhattan, as well as other parts of the city chanting slogans like Garner's now famous last words – "I can't breathe" – as NYPD officers looked on. In one touching moment this reporter witnessed a black city bus driver caught in traffic appear to repeatedly wipe tears from his eyes as protesters marched up Broadway.

They also lifted placards with various messages including several directed at the city's controversial broken windows policing policy. Based on the 1982 theory advanced by Professors George L. Kelling and James Q. Wilson, it argues that maintaining public order also helps prevent crime.

Critics of the policy, however, say it has led to overpolicing and mass incarceration and disproportionately targets poor, black and Hispanic people.

"My personal outrage at the lack of justice for young men of color on our streets [is what led me here today]," explained the Rev. Canon WM. Blake Rider of the Episcopal Diocese of New York. Along with him in the crowd were about 25 other Episcopal priests and about 200 lay people in his group.

He charged that Christians need to be doing more in our communities in helping to advance racial justice and said he hoped the NYPD internal investigation, as well as one recently launched by the Department of Justice, will better account for Garner's loss of life.

Contact: leonardo.blair@christianpost.com Follow Leonardo Blair on Twitter: @leoblair Follow Leonardo Blair on Facebook: LeoBlairChristianPost

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