Hundreds of protesters gathered in New York City on Friday calling for charges against a former U.S. Marine who placed a fellow subway passenger in a chokehold that killed him, stoking outcry over the lack of city support for those suffering from mental illness and homelessness.
Demonstrators displayed signs saying “Justice for Jordan Neely” and “Being poor is not a crime” at one protest in Washington Square Park in lower Manhattan Friday evening.
Earlier, the New York Young Communist League protested about a mile away at the Manhattan District Attorney’s office, demanding that the unidentified man who killed 30-year-old Jordan Neely on Monday be charged. Protesters also demanded an investigation of the police who, according to local media, let him go after questioning him.
The former Marine, who placed Neely in a chokehold while both rode the F train, has not been charged. The district attorney’s office said it is investigating the incident and would review the medical examiner’s report, which ruled Neely’s death a homicide due to compression of the neck.
The examiner’s homicide finding alone does not imply intent or culpability, which are issues that prosecutors will consider in deciding whether to bring criminal charges.
Neely, who was Black, was homeless, according to local media reports. The 24-year-old former Marine, who was white, was questioned by police and released on Monday, local media said. Organizers of local protests called the act a “lynching” and an example of “white vigilantism” against victims of colour.
New York Mayor Eric Adams cited mental health issues as having a role in the incident, but said he would refrain from commenting further while the investigation is under way.
A spate of attacks on train passengers last year, particularly Asian Americans, prompted Adams to increase police patrols and expand outreach to the mentally ill in the subway system, citing rising homelessness in the wake of the pandemic.
A video of the incident that has circulated on social media showed an unidentified passenger applying a chokehold to a man identified as Neely on the floor of a subway train for more than three minutes. Two other men are seen in the video restraining Neely’s arms before he went limp.
Reuters could not verify the authenticity of the video.
Neely was known to impersonate Michael Jackson, dressing and dancing like the legendary music artist on New York’s busy trains and stations. The altercation occurred after he boarded the train and began yelling at passengers, saying he was hungry and ready to die, the New York Times reported, citing police.
Democratic U.S. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, whose district includes neighbourhoods in the New York City boroughs of the Bronx and Queens, said Neely was murdered and called for his killer’s arrest.