De Blasio heckled at CNN town hall

(Image: screenshot)

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio was interrupted by a heckler at his CNN town hall when he spoke about the handling of Eric Garner’s fatal arrest.

The Democratic 2020 contender, who was asked by CNN moderator Ana Cabrera about his city’s handling of the controversial case, was wrapping up his response on Sunday when a protester yelled out from the audience.


(Video: CNN)

“There can never be another Eric Garner in this city or any place else in this country,” de Blasio said, telling the audience that the unarmed black man who died after being placed in a chokehold by a New York City police officer in 2014, “should not have died.”

Years after the incident and amid much protest and backlash, the officer, Daniel Pantaleo, was fired by the New York Police Department last week, sparking a fresh round of outrage over the length of time it took for there to be any consequences.

The banned chokehold used to restrain Garner, who was being arrested for selling a cigarette on a Staten Island street, was deemed to be what led to his death, according to investigators. Lieutenant Christopher Bannon and Officer Mark Ramos were also at the scene. Pantaleo’s supervisor, Sgt. Kizzy Adonis, was reprimanded but did not lose her job.

“What we learned immediately after the tragedy of Eric Garner was we had to do pretty much everything differently,” de Blasio said, noting how the NYPD implemented “de-escalation training, implicit bias” training and required body cameras for police officers “which helps everyone to think about each situation carefully and helps the truth to come out in the end.”

“So a lot has changed here and it has to change everywhere and it actually has to be a federal imperative,” de Blasio continued, contending that federal leaders need to mandate the same training as well as body cameras for “every police officer in America.”

“That’s how we end the tragedies,” the mayor added as he went on to blame the federal government.

“The United States Department of Justice failed here miserably,” de Blasio said, alleging that it went “five years without even deciding they were going to act and telling the city of New York not to act.”

“I think we need a law in this country — federal law — that says in these dynamics, there has to be a mandate that the Justice Department must act. It could be one year, two years, whatever standard we set, they must make a decision, they must act,” he told Cabrera.

A moment later, a woman in the audience shouted out.

“What about Lieutenant Bannon? What about Officer Ramos? … What about other officers?” she yelled while de Blasio seemed unfazed, never even turning toward her.

“Please be respectful. We have more audience questions to get to,” Cabrera told the protester who was identified  as Julianne Hoffenberg, a member of the criminal justice reform group, Justice League NYC.

“Tonight the mayor learned that if he is going to actually be in the city, then he must focus on the city,” Carmen Perez, co-founder of the Justice League NYC, told The Hill.

“If the Mayor continues to pursue the presidency, choosing national TV airtime over reforming the NYPD, then the grassroots activists of New York will appear on camera with him, calling him out for his neglect of our communities. Justice League NYC, just as we have tonight, will continue to put pressure on de Blasio to end his campaign and start focusing on bringing accountability and transparency to the NYPD,” Perez said.

Hoffenberg was led out of the town hall without de Blasio even acknowledging her remarks. Justice League NYC said they are still awaiting any response from the mayor, who has increasingly come under fire for ignoring problems in his city while out campaigning for the 2020 election.

Protesters chanting “Fire Pantaleo!” interrupted de Blasio during the second round of Democratic debates last month.

(Video: YouTube/Washington Post)

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Frieda Powers

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