2020 Democrats condemn decision not to charge officer in Eric Garner's death

A number of Democratic presidential hopefuls have come out to publicly condemn federal prosecutors’ decision not to charge New York City police officer Daniel Pantaleo in the 2014 death of Eric Garner.

The 2020 candidates expressed sympathy for the Garner family and highlighted the underlying the issue of criminal justice reform in the U.S.

“This is a miscarriage of justice. Our criminal justice system should be rooted in accountability. My heart breaks for the Garner family,” Sen. Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisRand Paul introduces bill to end no-knock warrants The Hill’s Campaign Report: Biden campaign goes on offensive against Facebook McEnany says Juneteenth is a very ‘meaningful’ day to Trump MORE (D-Calif.), a former prosecutor, said in a tweet. 

Harris’s fellow candidate and Senate colleague Sen. Cory BookerCory Anthony BookerRand Paul introduces bill to end no-knock warrants Black lawmakers unveil bill to remove Confederate statues from Capitol Harris grapples with defund the police movement amid veep talk MORE (D-N.J.), also took to Twitter to slam the decision, calling it a “reminder of just how broken” the U.S. criminal justice system is. 

“This decision is wrong, unjust and painful reminder of just how broken our criminal justice system is. Eric Garner should be alive today. I pray his loved ones can find peace,” he said. 

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New York City Mayor Bill de BlasioBill de BlasioProtesters splash red paint on NYC streets to symbolize blood De Blasio: Robert E Lee’s ‘name should be taken off everything in America, period’ House Democratic whip pushes back on calls to defund police: We need to focus on reform MORE, who is also running for president, slammed the Department of Justice and indicated there is now a strained relationship between the city and the department. 

“Years ago, we put our faith in the federal government to act. We won’t make that mistake again,” de Blasio said in a statement. “Moving forward, we will not wait for the federal government to commence our own disciplinary proceedings.” 

Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenWarren, Democrats urge Trump to back down from veto threat over changing Confederate-named bases OVERNIGHT DEFENSE: Joint Chiefs chairman says he regrets participating in Trump photo-op | GOP senators back Joint Chiefs chairman who voiced regret over Trump photo-op | Senate panel approves 0B defense policy bill Trump on collision course with Congress over bases with Confederate names MORE (D-Mass.) joined her colleagues, calling the decision “an injustice.” 

Sen. Bernie SandersBernie SandersThe Hill’s 12:30 Report: Milley apologizes for church photo-op Harris grapples with defund the police movement amid veep talk Biden courts younger voters — who have been a weakness MORE (I-Vt.) and philanthropist Tom SteyerTom SteyerBloomberg wages war on COVID-19, but will he abandon his war on coal? Overnight Energy: 600K clean energy jobs lost during pandemic, report finds | Democrats target diseases spread by wildlife | Energy Dept. to buy 1M barrels of oil Ocasio-Cortez, Schiff team up to boost youth voter turnout MORE each took aim at the racial element of the decision, and called for reform. 

Wednesday will mark the fifth anniversary of Garner’s death, and would have been the deadline to file certain civil rights or criminal charges against Pantaleo. The officer placed Garner, an unarmed black man, in a headlock on July 17, 2014, while attempting to arrest him for selling untaxed cigarettes.

The decision has drawn newfound attention to the state of the criminal justice system in the U.S., which Democratic presidential hopefuls have addressed on the campaign trail. Many also have a career background in the field. 

Harris implemented a series of criminal justice reform policies during her tenure as California attorney general, establishing a statewide body camera program. As a senator, Harris has also backed legislation to provide funding for body cameras.

Sanders has spoken about police reform on the campaign trail, and outlined his plan to deal with the issue in his broader “Racial Justice Plan.” 

Booker also has advocated for criminal justice reform on and off of the campaign trail, sponsoring the First Step Act, which resulted in the release of thousands of prisoners convicted on drug-related offenses. 

He also introduced the Second Step Act, which would improve bias training for law enforcement, among a number of other reforms. 

However, some 2020 presidential candidates have faced backlash on the issue of criminal justice. 

Former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenHillicon Valley: Biden calls on Facebook to change political speech rules | Dems demand hearings after Georgia election chaos | Microsoft stops selling facial recognition tech to police Trump finalizing executive order calling on police to use ‘force with compassion’ The Hill’s Campaign Report: Biden campaign goes on offensive against Facebook MORE has been hit by a number of Democratic primary opponents for supporting the 1994 crime bill, while South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete ButtigiegPete ButtigiegScaled-back Pride Month poses challenges for fundraising, outreach Biden hopes to pick VP by Aug. 1 It’s as if a Trump operative infiltrated the Democratic primary process MORE has been criticized for his handling of the police shooting of Eric Logan, an unarmed black man, in the city last month.

Biden and Buttigieg have yet to comment on the Justice Department’s decision not to charge Pantaleo. 

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