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Protesters demand criminal charges for subway rider who strangled NYC vagrant

Demonstrators gather at Manhattan's Washington Square to demand criminal charges. <i>Photo: AP</i>

Demonstrators gather at Manhattan's Washington Square to demand criminal charges. Photo: AP

Protesters in New York are calling for charges against a former US Marine who choked a rampaging homeless man to death in a subway carriage.

Lawyers for Daniel Penny say he never intended to harm 30-year-old Jordan Neely, whose death has stoked an outcry over the lack of city support for those suffering from mental illness and homelessness.

Hundreds of 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 on Friday evening.

Criminal defence law firm Raiser & Kenniff says it is representing the 24-year-old former Marine

A video of the incident has circulated on social media showed Penny applying a chokehold to 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.

A statement from the lawyers said Penny wanted to express “condolences to those close to Mr Neely.”

It alleged Neely had aggressively threatened Penny and other passengers, and added that “Daniel never intended to harm Mr Neely and could not have foreseen his untimely death.”

Activists demand justice

Earlier on Friday, the New York Young Communist League protested at the Manhattan District Attorney’s office demanding that Penny be charged. Protesters also demanded an investigation of the police who, according to media, let him go after questioning him.

Neely, who was Black, was homeless, according to media reports, and had a rap sheet that included more than 40 arrests. Penny was questioned by police and released on Monday.

Protest organisers called the act a “lynching” and an example of “white vigilantism” against people of colour.

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.

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 against 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.

Democratic US 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 Penny’s arrest.

-AAP

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