“If a Black homeless man choked a white Marine to death, he wouldn’t be able to get off Rikers Island because he wouldn’t be able to pay the bail,” Public Advocate Jumaane Williams declared outside of the subway station Wednesday where Jordan Neely lost his life over a week agp.
Williams joined New York City Comptroller Brad Lander and several advocates outside of the Broadway-Lafayette station on May 10 to demand criminal charges against Daniel Penny, the man reportedly seen grappling with Neely in the dramatic, viral video.
Williams denounced that formal charges have yet to be placed against Penny and that he was permitted to go free. Although the Medical Examiner deemed that Neely died as a result of the choke, the NYPD declared his death a homicide, and Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg launched an investigation, as of May 10, Penny has yet to be charged for the killing.
Neely’s death has sparked fierce debate from either ends of the political spectrum with many protesters taking to the streets to decry what they feel is yet another racially motivated murder in America. However, there are also those who believe that Neely was a danger and bring up his criminal past — which reportedly included an assault on a senior woman.
But Williams pushed back against the latter argument, declaring that nobody on that F train on May 1 was aware of Neely’s past actions.
“Apparently only Black folks are the ones that walk around with their records and things that they have done for everyone to see. No one had any idea at that moment of time what Jordan had done,” Williams said. “There was an elderly lady who was hit, that is horrible and we have to have accountability there as well. But it’s also a continued failure. I’m so happy that the elderly woman is alive, I wouldn’t want that to be my mom. [But] Jordan is dead. And he spent 15 months on Rikers Island.”
Lander also weighed in on the infamous incident and joined Williams in calling for “immediate” charges. The comptroller doubled down on his initial comments via social media calling the chokehold an act of vigilantism — a remark which Mayor Eric Adams previously criticized.
“I’ll be honest, I did not think it would be controversial to simply say, New York City is not Gotham. We can’t be a city where you could choke someone to death who is experiencing a mental health crisis without any consequence and also we can’t be in a city where people are cheering when someone is killed,” Lander said. “We understand people are feeling anxious and fear that that can get turned into anger. But I really think we all know what to do in a moment like this is to take a deep breath.”
Several large demonstrations demanding charges be brought against Penny have erupted into violence in the days following Neely’s death which saw dramatic arrests and with police even stating they recovered a Molotov cocktail on Monday night.
While Williams said he is calling on charges to be swift, he also reminded the public that Penny should also have his day in court.