NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Local business owners on Staten Island are bracing for the reaction to a grand jury’s decision not to indict a police officer in the death of Eric Garner.
CBS2’s Dave Carlin was in Thompkinsville after the decision was announced. Those who had heard the news said they were frustrated and upset by the decision.
“A disgrace,” one woman told WCBS 880’s Peter Haskell. “The coroner said he could contributed to that man’s death.”
“There ain’t no justice is you’re black,” she added. “You only get justice if you’re white.”
Around noon Wednesday, hours before the decision was announced, it was business as usual inside the shops on the block of Bay Street where Garner was killed after being put in a apparent chokehold by a police officer.
Merchants who usually focus on activity inside their stores said they were eyeing the sidewalk and closely monitoring news updates about the Garner case, Carlin reported.
“I’m just going to play it by ear and we’ll see what happens,” business owner Jimmy Kasidonis said. “If I see like something’s going to happen, I’m going to get all my employees out of here and I’m going to go home.”
Shop owners said they have a very simple plan if there is trouble: they’ll lock the doors, pull down the roll gates and leave, Carlin reported.
Owners of Beauty Supply Shop decided to close up shop a few hours early, but said it was just a precaution.
Some in the neighborhood don’t expect anticipated protests to get out of hand.
“I’m not gonna worry about anything because I don’t think anything is going to go crazy around here,” said deli worker Charlene Thomas. “Everybody out here loved Eric, nobody is going to do that, nobody is going to go crazy like that, I don’t think so, I doubt it.”
By late afternoon a small group of protesters had gathered at a memorial on the block where the incident happened, 1010 WINS’ Holli Haerr reported.
Several people chanted “I can’t breathe,” as well as “Hands up don’t shoot,” and “No justice, no peace.”
Residents stopped chanting momentarily when Eric Garner’s stepfather, Benjamin Carr, stopped by to urge everyone to stay peaceful, Carlin reported.
He made no comments to reporters and left within half an hour.
Residents there told Haerr they were disappointed, but not surprised by the grand jury decision. Many said they feel the officer got away with murder, Haerr reported.
“For police to do this now and know they can get away with it, we have to come together now,” Markus Smith said.
“The officers got away with it again and it really hurts,” Jessie Daniels said.
Protesters said they plan to protest peacefully, and don’t expect any violence in the wake of the decision.
The grand jury began hearing evidence in the case on Sept. 29.
Speaking Wednesday on “CBS This Morning,” Police Commissioner Bill Bratton said he doesn’t anticipate any violence in New York City, like the ones seen in Ferguson, Missouri after an officer was not indicted in the death of 18-year-old Michael Brown.
Bratton planned to have extra police officers on hand on Staten Island for the decision.
Garner, a father of six, died in July after being placed in an apparent chokehold by Officer Daniel Pantaleo. Garner was being arrested for allegedly selling loose, untaxed cigarettes.
In cellphone video of the incident, Pantaleo is seen placing his arm around Garner’s neck and then taking him to the ground after Garner refuses to be handcuffed.
Garner is heard saying repeatedly, “I can’t breathe!” He died a short time later.
The New York City Medical Examiner’s office ruled Garner’s death a homicide, caused by the officer’s apparent chokehold as well as chest and neck compressions and prone positioning “during physical restraint by police.”
An independent forensic investigator hired by the Garner family also agreed with the medical examiner’s findings.
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