Administrators at New Canaan High School, catching wind Thursday morning that some students had planned to walk out of classes at 1:30 p.m. in a protest of the grand jury decision not to indict the police officer whose chokehold in July led to the death of Eric Garner on Staten Island, addressed the effort’s organizer and advised that “there are ways to protest and some may be more appropriate than others,” Superintendent of Schools Dr. Bryan Luizzi said.
Asked what the administrators said to NCHS Senior Charles Sosnick, Luizzi said, “They advised that there may be other ways than walking out of class at 1:30 that may not be disruptive to the school day for themselves and their peers, so they [the students] are considering that.”
“They are students and they want to have their opinions heard about what is going on in Staten Island, so we just tried to advise them around different ways they can do that,” Luizzi said.
He confirmed that the original plan had been to gather at the flagpole out front of the school.
A grand jury on Wednesday decided not to indict on criminal charges the white police officer whose chokehold in July on Garner, an unarmed black man, led to that man’s death.
The officer, 29-year-old Daniel Pantaleo, told the grand jury that he wanted to take down Garner, 43, not choke him. The grand jury deliberated for less than one day. A video taken at the scene (posted above) shows Garner holding up his hands when approached by police, and telling them that he couldn’t breathe after they brought him down to the ground.
In New Canaan and elsewhere, waves of protests have been held following the grand jury’s decision. It followed about one week after a grand jury in Missouri ended the criminal case against Darren Wilson, who in August shot and killed Michael Brown, an unarmed 18-year-old black man in Ferguson.
The specter of Ferguson was raised in New Canaan in an ugly way in September, when a 55-year-old Greenwich said “Remember what happened in Ferguson” to a town parking bureau enforcement officer, who is black, during a dispute after he was issued a ticket. That man pleaded not guilty to second-degree breach of peace.
Here’s a video that shows the Garner incident: