Two days after one subway rider killed another using a deadly chokehold, dozens of people gathered on a crowded Manhattan subway platform to demand justice and for more social services for people in need.
The identity of the man who fatally strangled Jordan Neely, 30, is still unknown, as police said they released him from custody without charges shortly after the deadly encounter on an F train Monday.
“We cannot just continue to stand by with complicity,” said Shifa Rahman, a 22-year-old Manhattan man who showed up at the vigil-turned-protest Wednesday inside the Broadway-Lafayette subway station. “It’s the reduction and dehumanizing of Black lives.”
It’s still not known exactly what started the altercation, but the horrific last moments of Neely’s life were captured on video by Juan Alberto Vazquez, who posted it on his Facebook page (warning: it’s graphic).
In the accompanying description in Spanish, Vazquez wrote Neely had yelled “I don’t have food, I don’t have to drink, I’m done… I don’t care about going to jail and getting life… I’m ready to die.”
Vazquez did not respond to a message seeking comment.
In the first part of the nearly 4-minute video, a young man in a tan coat has Neely on the floor in a chokehold while other riders help restrain Neely — before he goes limp.
Some news outlets have said the man choking Neely is a 24-year-old Marine, but no city officials have confirmed that.
A TikTok page purporting to be Neely’s contains several videos of him busking on the subway as a Michael Jackson impersonator. Manhattan Borough President Mark Levine on Twitter said he had himself seen the performances.
‘Where Were the White Shirts?’
At Wednesday afternoon’s protest, Adolfo Abreu, the housing campaigns director of the social services and human rights nonprofit group Vocal-NY, called Neely’s death “disheartening, like our collective failure.
“That this happened is shocking and gruesome,” Abreu added.
“What outrages me is that my daughter woke up today and she cannot believe that in this day and age, we have this amount of racism in what is supposedly the most progressive city,” said a woman at the rally who declined to give her name.
The vigil and protest for Neely moved through the station complex and later up onto East Houston Street, as participants briefly blocked traffic and chanted against police while calling for more social services for New Yorkers. The marchers continued down Broadway into Wednesday evening.
While the tone of the rally for Neely was markedly anti-police, protesters also demanded that law enforcement officials arrest and charge the unidentified man seen in the video.
“Where were the white shirts, where were the white shirts yesterday when a man was getting choked to death?” shouted Justin Pines, 26, from Brooklyn, referring to senior law enforcement members who were at the vigil.
Papi Sen, 33, said he and others were “trying to put pressure on the Manhattan DA to press charges against a man whose identity we don’t even know yet.”
Douglas Cohen, a spokesperson for Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, said they were investigating the death but declined to comment further.
In the Facebook post, Vazquez wrote “They were in that position for about 15 minutes while other passengers and the train operator called the police.”
On Wednesday evening, the Office of the City Medical Examiner ruled Neely’s death a homicide by “compression of the neck (chokehold)” but noted in a statement: “For your guidance, this is not a ruling on intent or culpability, which is for the DA and criminal justice system to consider.”
At an unrelated press conference earlier in the day, Gov. Kathy Hochul touted the state’s investment in mental health services. She had only just watched the video of Neely’s death, she said, and called it “deeply disturbing.”
Mayor Eric Adams avoided questions at the same press conference, but later released a written statement saying “any loss of life is tragic” and then spoke about the city’s mental-health services.
“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,” Adams said.