Crime & Justice

Mourners at funeral of black man strangled on NYC subway decry systemic racism

By Javier Otazu

New York, May 19 (EFE).- Mourners at Friday’s funeral for the 30-year-old black homeless man choked to death by a white military veteran on the New York City subway placed much of the blame for his demise on systemic racism in the United States.

Elected officials such as US Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and New York Lt. Gov. Antonio Delgado, activists, and ordinary citizens joined family and friends of Jordan Neely at Mount Neboh Baptist Church in Harlem to remember and honor the former Michael Jackson impersonator.

And after a service that included a eulogy by the Rev. Al Sharpton, mourners with their fists in the air chanted “No Justice, No Peace.”

“We shouldn’t not celebrate Jordan’s life, but we should not forget how he died. We’re not here because of natural causes, but because of unnatural policies,” the civil rights leader said.

“Jordan was not annoying anyone on the train. Jordan was screaming for help. We keep criminalizing people with mental illness. They don’t need abuse, they need help,” Sharpton said.

Neely had a history of mental health problems and a police record that included an arrest for assault. But witnesses to the incident on the subway said that while he was “behaving erratically,” he did not attack or threaten anyone.

“We can’t live in a city where you can choke me to death with no provocation, no weapon, no threat, and you go home and sleep in your bed while my family got to put me in a cemetery. It must be equal justice under the law,” Sharpton said.

Daniel Penny, a 24-year-old former US Marine, came up on Neely from behind and placed him in a chokehold for several minutes.

Another rider aided Penny in keeping Neely pinned to the floor until police arrived to find the homeless man unconscious.

Neely was pronounced dead at the hospital and while police questioned Penny, they did not hold him.

The coroner’s office deemed Neely’s death a homicide and Penny was charged last week with second-degree manslaughter, which carries a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison. The ex-Marine is free on $100,000 bail.

If Neely had been white and Penny black, Sharpton said, police “would not have let that black guy leave the precinct that night.”

The senior pastor at Mount Neboh, the Rev. Johnnie Green, likened Neely’s death to the “lynching of a black man in the public square.”

Green, who in 2007 presided over the funeral of Neely’s murdered mother, said that racism “is in the essence of this country.”

Penny’s attorneys say that he “stepped in to protect himself and his fellow New Yorkers” and people who sympathize with their client have contributed $2.67 million toward paying for his legal defense.

Politicians on the right have praised Penny and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis – expected to announce next week his candidacy for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination – called him a “good Samaritan.”

Sharpton referred to DeSantis’ comment in his eulogy.

“A good Samaritan helps those in trouble,” Sharpton said. “They don’t choke him out.”

EFE fjo/dr

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