Protests erupted at a subway station and on the streets of New York City on Wednesday just days after a Black homeless man was killed on a train by another subway rider.
Jordan Neely, 30, was put in a chokehold and killed on the northbound F train in New York by a 24-year-old Marine veteran on Monday afternoon. A video captured by witnesses at the scene depicts the 24-year-old holding Neely’s neck for almost three minutes while Neely tries to push back. Two others joined in restraining Neely’s hands until he was unconscious.
A crowd gathered at a subway platform at the Broadway-Lafayette Street station in New York on Wednesday afternoon to hold a vigil and protest Neely’s killing. At the station, demonstrators chanted, “Justice for Jordan Neely” and “What do we want? Justice. When do we want it? Now!”
Neely’s death was ruled to be a homicide by a medical examiner on Wednesday caused by “compression of neck (chokehold).” But the 24-year-old passenger who put Neely in a chokehold was released on Wednesday and has not been charged.
“A lot of us are closer to homelessness than we are to being millionaires, so to see someone be treated like that as a homeless person is scary to people who are unhoused, scary for people who are at risk of being homeless,” one protester told Breakthrough News, a nonprofit news site.
Videos on Twitter show tense encounters between protesters and police officers as the crowd moved to the upper platform and outside the subway station on Wednesday.
Witnesses told CBS News that Neely had appeared to be experiencing a mental health crisis on Monday and was shouting at people on the train, but that he didn’t appear to be seeking to assault or harm anyone.
“He erupted in the train and then started to yelling violence language, ‘I don’t care if I die, I don’t care if I go to jail, I don’t have any food, I don’t have any beverage, I’m done,’” Juan Alberto Vázquez, who recorded a video of Neely being put in a chokehold, said, ABC7 New York reports.
Late last year, New York City Mayor Eric Adams introduced new policies to address the city’s homeless and mental health crisis as well as crime, including a plan to allow police officers to involuntarily hospitalize homeless people who appear to be mentally ill or pose a threat to themselves or others. The move was widely criticized by mental health and disability advocates as a resurgence of historic legislation that has isolated homeless and disabled people in the past.
“Any loss of life is tragic. There’s a lot we don’t know about what happened here, so I’m going to refrain from commenting further,” Adams said in a statement on Wednesday, according to CBS News.
“However, we do know that there were serious mental health issues in play here, which is why our administration has made record investments in providing care to those who need it and getting people off the streets and the subways, and out of dangerous situations. And I need all elected officials and advocacy groups to join us in prioritizing getting people the care they need and not just allowing them to languish,” he said.
In addressing Neely’s death on Thursday, Adams said that he will “let the investigation run its course,” and that he has faith in the criminal justice system.
“I have a responsibility for this entire city and I have faith in the criminal justice system and I’m going to let the process take its place and those who believe that I should do something differently, I respect that. But I have to make the right decision for the City of New York,” he said.
Other New York lawmakers have spoken out following Neely’s death, including Rep. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez (D-N.Y.), who tweeted on Wednesday night that “Jordan Neely was murdered.”
“I have yet to hear a real explanation from any official hesitating to condemn the killing of Jordan Neely about what makes condemning this violence so ‘complicated,’” she tweeted on Thursday. “Killing is wrong. Killing the poor is wrong. Killing the mentally ill is wrong. Why is that so hard to say?”