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Harlem responds to Garner’s death

Race. Four days after a Staten Island grand jury declined to indict a white police officer in the chokehold death of Eric Garner, the anger on Harlem’s streets was just as fresh.

“They’ve been getting away with killing young black men for too many years,” said Michael Griffin, 59, a pastor’s aide, user and security guard at the Canaan Baptist Church of Christ on West 116th Street.

“I hope the federal system get their act together because they can’t keep doing this. It’s not right and it’s not fair,” Griffin said.

“What I really want to say, you couldn’t say it (in the newspaper)” said Etta Glover, arriving for a 10 a.m. service at the historic church. “It’s unreal that they shoot down black men, with potential, and nobody’s held accountable.”

Glover, 75, said she didn’t feel any different about the Garner case a few days after the verdict, and following nights of peaceful protests in the city.

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“Even when it’s all happening, we still have our faith. We have to come together. It’s going to happen,” Glover said.

At the nearby Johnson Houses, a NYCHA housing development between 112th and 115th streets in East Harlem, Tyrone McCall, 46, said he was trying to be as “unbiased as possible” when thinking about the Garner case.

“You committed a crime on a man, and you’re supposed to uphold the law … how can I look at you for protection when you’re committing crimes youself?” McCall said. “As a black man, or just as a man, period, I don’t expect a perfect world, but when you see a problem that’s reoccuring continuously, something is wrong.”

Olga Corona, 38, said she realized the way men of color are treated about a year ago, when she sent her 15-year-old son across the street to pick up dinner. Police officers pulled him out of the restaurant and frisked him.

“He was just getting his pregnant mother something to eat,” Corona said.

When she asked her family members who work for the police why her son was stopped, they told her to blame the “neighborhood.”

“If you don’t want that done, then get out,” Corona said. “I don’t want him to grow up thinking that’s okay, because it’s not.”

Corona said she thinks the police need to stop treating people in her community as “enemies.”

“They get paid because of people like us,” Corona said. “I should be feeling comfortable around a cop versus feeling like they might do something to me and get away with it.”

“I grew up in the hood, I know how it is, I’ve carried a knife to protect myself,” said Sherlie Santiago, 46.

“I believe the officer shouldn’t go to prison, he did his job,” Santiago said, adding she knows she has a minority view in East Harlem. “It is what it is, an officer has the right to apprehend a suspect, and it happened.”

 
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