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Upset on Twitter & in the Streets in Response to Eric Garner Decision

On Dec. 3, 2014, news broke that a grand jury would not indict Officer Daniel Pantaleo in the killing of Eric Garner. The decision came as a shock to many, given that the video recording of the incident went viral, clearly showing Officer Pantaleo placing Garner in a chokehold, a takedown method that has been banned by the NYPD since 1993. New Yorkers took their disapproval to the streets, marching in protest from Union Square to Rockefeller Center, where the 82nd Annual Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree Lighting was taking place.

With most shocking legal results comes a groundswell of response on the Internet; the non-indictment was no exception. As with the #IfTheyGunnedMeDown that followed news of Mike Brown’s murder, Twitter was taken over with the #CrimingWhileWhite hashtag, which accompanied white Twitter user’s anecdotes about getting away with reckless behavior by police.

Twitter user @CecilyK participates in the #CrimingWhileWhite hashtag

Twitter user @CecilyK participates in the #CrimingWhileWhite hashtag

The response to the trending topic was mixed: while users like actor Jesse Williams appreciated people’s acknowledgement of their privilege, others felt as though the hashtag detracted from the plight of black people in the United States. The #AliveWhileBlack tag was thus created as an alternative.

Twitter user @Karnythia participates in the #AliveWhileBlack hashtag

Twitter user @Karnythia participates in the #AliveWhileBlack hashtag

Regardless, response to the non-indictment came to the united front that the grand jury’s decision reflected a miscarriage of justice. The idea that video evidence couldn’t provide cause for a trial could imply that police are above the law, an especially difficult notion to grasp in light of the non-indictment of Officer Darren Wilson for the murder of Mike Brown.

Improvements do seem to be in the works, with President Obama requesting funding for police body cameras, and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and NYPD Police Commissioner discussing the need for police retraining (although the former initiative has taken a hit with the non-indictment in the Eric Garner case, given that video evidence was used in vain). However, protestors will likely be taking to the streets – and their social media accounts – incessantly until tangible changes are made.

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