- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Democratic presidential hopeful Cory A. Booker on Wednesday said he would have sought charges against the officer accused of killing Eric Garner in 2014, after federal prosecutors recently announced they wouldn’t pursue federal civil rights charges.

“Eric Garner was selling loose cigarettes, and yet he was suddenly put into a chokehold and killed, so yes, I would have brought charges,” Mr. Booker said at a presidential forum at the NAACP’s annual convention in Detroit.

Mr. Booker had been asked if he would have sought charges if he had been mayor of New York City, or if Garner was in his district.

“But this is what we have to understand: for every video that we see, there are thousands of instances that we don’t,” he said. “For every name that we know, there are thousands of others that we don’t know. The critical key for the next president is to have a Department of Justice not like this president, who is pulling back investigations and consent decrees on police departments.”

He called for a Justice Department “actively working” to stop the oppression of poor and minority communities.

Mr. Booker had previously written to Attorney General William P. Barr asking him to explain the “disturbing decision” not to bring federal civil rights charges against Officer Daniel Pantaleo.

Garner died after the officer had placed him in a chokehold, and his death has been used as a major rallying cry by the Black Lives Matter movement. In 2014, a Staten Island grand jury had already declined to bring local criminal charges against the officer.

In his letter to Mr. Barr, Mr. Booker cited news reports saying the attorney general had overruled career prosecutors in the Justice Department’s civil rights division on the issue.

Asked a similar question about the Garner case later on in the forum, Sen. Kamala D. Harris seized on that notion, though she didn’t give a direct “yes” or “no” answer on whether she would have brought charges.

“Under my administration, the Civil Rights Division of the United States Department of Justice will have priority in terms of weighing in on what these cases should be,” said Ms. Harris, a former attorney general of California.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar, Minnesota Democrat, said at the forum that the case is one for the justice system to decide.

“I think in a broader sense that we have to make a decision on how we’re going to deal with a criminal justice system that has very strong problems with racism,” said Ms. Klobuchar, a former prosecutor. “We have to admit that this criminal justice system is racist and go from there.”

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