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Eric Garner's family vows large protests if Pantaleo isn't fired

Emerald Snipes Garner, daughter of Eric Garner, and the Rev. Al Sharpton spoke at National Action Network headquarters in Harlem on Saturday. (Credit: Newsday / Matthew Chayes)

Prepare for the biggest protests New York City has ever seen — unless an NYPD officer is fired over his alleged use of a banned chokehold in 2014 that the medical examiner said killed Eric Garner — his daughter warned Saturday.

Emerald Snipes Garner's warning comes a day after an NYPD administrative judge recommended firing the officer, Daniel Pantaleo. The daughter said that recommendation “was the first time that a decision-maker has said that Daniel Pantaleo has done something wrong.”

“I care about making an example out of a murderer,” she said at the storefront Harlem headquarters of the Rev. Al Sharpton.    

“You — I’m coming for you,” she said, addressing Pantaleo, “because you know why? Because you killed my father. You can’t kill all of us.” 

Sharpton said he would push Congress to prohibit chokeholds nationally. 

“It ain’t over,” he said. “We’re gonna have an Eric Garner anti-chokehold federal law before this is over. This can never, ever happen again!” 

A bill drafter would need to identify a constitutionally authorized power in order to criminalize a chokehold on a federal level, according to Robin Charlow, a Hofstra law professor. The use of typical avenues — like the 14th Amendment's equal-protection guarantee, which is the basis for federally prosecuting cops for violating civil rights; or the Constitution's interstate-commerce clause, which is the basis for federal drug crimes — isn't certain to pass U.S. Supreme Court muster, Charlow said. She couldn't immediately think of a feasible avenue.

On Friday, NYPD administrative judge Rosemarie Maldonado issued her recommendation faulting Pantaleo for using the long-banned chokehold maneuver while trying to arrest Eric Garner, 43, for selling untaxed, “loosie” cigarettes on a Staten Island street on July 17, 2014.  She presided over an administrative trial earlier this year at NYPD headquarters. 

The police commissioner now chooses how and whether to penalize Pantaleo, who has been on restricted duty since the death but has gotten pay raises. He wasn't criminally charged, enraging the Garners, who believe Pantaleo committed a crime in the encounter, which a bystander videotaped. Garner’s dying words — “I can’t breathe,” gasped 11 times — became a rallying cry for the nascent Black Lives Matter movement. 

Pantaleo’s labor union head, Pat Lynch of the Police Benevolent Association, on Friday told his cops to “take it a step slower" when handling a suspected criminal and "don't put yourself at risk."

Garner’s daughter, wearing a T-shirt with “MURDERER” over Pantaleo’s silk-screened photo, shrugged off the criticism of Maldonado's recommendation, which Mayor Bill de Blasio has said would end in “justice” before September. 

“The PBA’s very upset," she said. "Good! Ya’ll should feel the pain we’ve been feeling the past five years."
  

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