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Protesters Interrupted The Democratic Debate And Called For The Cop Who Killed Eric Garner To Be Fired

Calls of "Fire Pantaleo!" forced moderators to pause the debate.

Last updated on July 31, 2019, at 9:33 p.m. ET

Posted on July 31, 2019, at 9:06 p.m. ET

Paul Sancya / AP

Protesters in the audience brought the latest Democratic presidential debate to a halt Wednesday night as they called for the New York police officer who killed Eric Garner to be fired.

Shouts of "Fire Pantaleo!" came from the audience in Detroit while New York Mayor Bill de Blasio and New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker delivered their opening statements, forcing the moderators to briefly stop the debate.

Debate comes to a halt as "Fire Pantaleo" chants come from the audience for the second time

NYPD Officer Daniel Pantaleo placed Garner in a controversial and prohibited chokehold while Garner gasped, "I can't breathe."

Two weeks ago, the Department of Justice announced it would not be filing federal charges against the officer, a decision made just before the statute of limitations ran out on the case.

A grand jury also declined to file charges against the officer in 2014.

The NYPD announced that it was charging Pantaleo with violating department protocols, which could mean possible disciplinary action against the officer.

However, the Department of Justice's decision has renewed protests, criticism of de Blasio, and calls for the officer to be fired.

Eduardo Munoz Alvarez / AP

Officer Daniel Pantaleo

At Wednesday's debate, protesters were first heard during de Blasio's opening statement.

Chants of "Fire Pantaleo!" came again in the middle of Booker's opening statement, prompting the CNN moderators to pause the debate.

We’re a little over a half hour in but the winners of tonight’s #DemDebate are the protestors that heckled “#FirePantaleo” at DeBlasio.

Protesters also interrupted former vice president Joe Biden as he spoke about immigration. The demonstrators seemed to be calling attention to the number of people who were deported under the Obama administration.

Biden's comments on immigration interrupted by protesters yelling about how many deportations took place during the Obama administration. #DemDebate2

De Blasio later acknowledged the Pantaleo protesters in a series of tweets.

I want the Garner family and every single person hurt by the tragedy of his death to know they are seen and heard. We all watched Eric Garner's dying words. They haunted this nation. He NEVER should have died. #DemDebate

But he was later asked to respond to criticisms over the officer's continued employment. De Blasio accused the Justice Department of blocking the city from taking action until recently, and suggested that it would now move on the case, though he did not provide specifics.

"I know the Garner family," he said. "They are waiting for justice and are going to get justice. There is finally going to be justice and I have confidence in that."

De Blasio has spoken about Garner's death and the need for police reform but has not publicly called for Pantaleo to be fired. As mayor, however, he would not have the authority to fire the officer; only the police commissioner does.

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