The majority of Americans disagree with the recent grand jury decision to not indict the white police officer who caused the death of Eric Garner, an unarmed New York man, by putting him in an apparent chokehold.
According to a new USA Today/Pew Research Center poll, just 22% of Americans believe the grand jury made the right decision, compared to 57% who said it made the wrong decision.
The grand jury’s decision to not charge Daniel Pantaleo, one of several NYPD officers who accosted Garner after suspecting him of selling cigarettes illegally, has stoked racial tensions and protests across the country. The demonstrations have been intensified a separate grand jury decision last month to not charge another white police officer for the death of unarmed black teen Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, as well as a number of other recent high-profile cases in which black men died as the result of altercations with police.
Interestingly, Americans feel very differently about the decision in Ferguson. More Americans – 50% – believe the grand jury there made the right decision in not indicting officer Darren Wilson for the shooting death of Brown. Meanwhile, 37% said the grand jury decision in Ferguson was wrong.
The survey also indicated that race was not widely viewed as being a key factor in either decision. Just 27% said race was a major factor in the Brown decision, with 16% saying it was minor. Roughly half – 48% – said it was not a factor at all in the ruling.
Similarly, 28% said race was a major factor in the Garner case, with 16% saying it was minor. The plurality – 39% – said race was not a factor.President Obama, who has long sought to strike a balance between raising awareness of persistent racial problems and calling for people to respect the rule of law, said Monday that he supported the protests surrounding the two grand jury decisions.
“As long as they’re peaceful, I think they are necessary,” the commander-in-chief said in an interview to BET. “When they turn violent, then they turn counterproductive.” He added, “Power concedes nothing without a fight, that’s true, but it’s also true that a country’s conscious has to be triggered by some inconvenience.”