On the sun-drenched spring evening of Friday, May 5, a crowd of a few hundred people gathered in Washington Square Park to protest the killing of Jordan Neely. The 30-year-old Black man was put in a chokehold by Daniel Penny, a white ex-marine for 15 minutes, abetted by two other men, while witnesses in the subway car looked on. A hungry Neely had screamed out in distress when commuters paid no attention to his pleas for food. He had not been violent or attacked anyone.
The protest, organized by the New York City branch of the Party for Socialism and Liberation, started with speeches by activists before attendees marched down 6th Avenue and turned right on 14th Street. The protesters ended their march at Union Square.
Epicenter-NYC contributor Hari Adivarekar spoke with an organizer and several protesters about their personal reasons for being present and what they felt about the 15 minutes during which a man’s life was taken on NYC’s public transport.
“I was on a delivery, but a man lost his life, so money can wait. I wanted to pay my respects. No disrespect to anyone here but everyone’s talking about the system, the governor, the mayor but not about the people on the train that day. Not to be a superman but if you had any iota or any ounce of humanity in you. The man wasn’t even resisting and for people to put a camera on a man getting choked out or dying. I wasn’t there and don’t want to judge but you would think somebody would try to save the man. And that was the saddest thing for me. Regardless of the intentions of the killer everybody was complicit in that act. It happens all the time. People take out their cameras to film but they don’t try to intervene. They just watched a man get murdered in front of them.”
—Leo Mutanba, DoorDash delivery person
“I’m just shocked that there was an extra judicial killing that hasn’t yet been prosecuted. It’s astonishing and I felt the need to come out and say something. I live in Manhattan and I have family here, a wife and kids. I want the authorities to arrest and prosecute Neely’s killer.”
—David, software technician
“You’ve seen how unjust it is. You’ve seen this with poor people. A woman who is selling mangos on the street is arrested. A young, Black or Latino person gets murdered for looking suspicious. But an ex-marine who kills somebody, who suffocates them for 15 minutes on the train, they let him go. These hypocrisies are not new to us. And at the same time we can’t accept them, we can’t get used to them. It’s important for people to be making that connection that we’re just one medical bill or paycheck away from living on the streets. We’re living in an economic crisis.”
—Karina Garcia, Party for Socialism and Liberation
“I want to march down to the station that he was killed at. I feel sad and sorry for the family that lost their son, grandson, nephew. He didn’t deserve to die. He should be living today continuing his Michael Jackson impressions.”
—Mike Howard, union leader, Vocal New York
“I feel we should all stand together. One person’s pain is all of our pain. We should put our hands together to stop this. The fact this happened for a whole 15 minutes and no one was able to stand up and say that this is not ok, just shows how self centered we’ve become. We need to care about each other. Today it’s somebody else. Tomorrow it could be you.”
—Fatima, psychology student
“I’m here today because I’ve had enough people who look like me disenfranchised and dehumanized in our own city. It makes me feel very angry. Within 30 seconds of a chokehold a person becomes unconscious. The 15 minutes was overkill, that was premeditated murder in my opinion. This is an ex-marine right? So you do know how to make someone unconscious without killing them. Did he intend to kill this man? The people who sat by and watched – that’s even worse. We are a community in this city and you’re not gonna stand up when you see something that’s wrong?”
—Janice Harley, paralegal
Editor’s note: The original headline of this story used the word murder. It has since been updated; at present nobody has been convicted in the death of Jordan Neely.