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New York City Mayor Eric Adams faces outrage among residents and politicians in the city for his response to a former U.S. marine, who is White, publicly killing Jordan Neely, who was Black and houseless, on a subway Monday.

The viral killing and the lack of an arrest reminds many of the days of racial terror lynchings, when white vigilantes lynched Black residents with no accountability.

Neely, a former Michael Jackson impersonator who New Yorkers remember as entertaining crowds on their daily commutes, was allegedly suffering from a mental health crisis. After yelling about being hungry and allegedly threatening passengers Monday afternoon, a 24-year-old ex-marine passenger placed him in a headlock for 15 minutes while other passengers held down Neely’s arms and legs.

mayor eric adams
Jordan Neely

Though EMT eventually arrived on scene and attempted to revive him, Neely was pronounced dead at the hospital.

The man who publicly choked the life out of Neely, a former U.S. marine, was released shortly after being taken into custody, and major media outlets have refused to release his name.

“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 press statement on Wednesday. Both the mayor and Gov. Kathy Hochul appeared to cast at least partial blame on Neely’s mental health for causing his own death.

“We do know that there were serious mental health issues at play here,” Mayor Adams said.

Later on Wednesday, a crowd of mourners gathered to hold a vigil for Neely with chants of “Black Lives Matter,” “Justice for Jordan Neely,” and “F*ck Eric Adams,” according to New York Daily News.

NYC Mayor Eric Adams defunded homeless services

According to eyewitnesses speaking with New York Daily News, the ex-marine continued to hold Neely in a headlock even though the man stopped moving after two minutes, video shows.

“He wasn’t conscious, he wasn’t responsive, and the man still had him in the headlock,” King told the New York Daily News.

On Wednesday, a medical examiner ruled the death a homicide.

Despite claiming that all New Yorkers should come together to support mental health and homeless services following the lynching, his administration cut $615 million from the city’s Homeless Services agency last year even as he pushes more police into subways to crack down on crime and houselessness.

New York City Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez called the death of Neely a “murder.”

“Jordan Neely was murdered. But bc Jordan was houseless and crying for food in a time when the city is raising rents and stripping services to militarize itself while many in power demonize the poor, the murderer gets protected w/ passive headlines + no charges. It’s disgusting,” AOC tweeted.

The Democratic Congresswoman also blasted Mayor Adams, another Democrat, for his statement on Wednesday.

“This honestly feels like a new low: not being able to clearly condemn a public murder because the victim was of a social status some would deem “too low” to care about,” AOC said.

A public lynching in NYC in 2023

The Equal Justice Initiative has documented 4,400 racial terror lynchings of Black Americans between 1877 and 1950. The organization described the motivation behind those lynchings was to “enforce racial subordination and segregation.”

While it’s unclear whether race played a factor in the killing of Jordan Neely, New York officials have ramped up efforts in recent months to segregate houseless residents from the subways in a city where many see the houseless as a population unworthy of equal respect.

Juan Alberto Vazquez is the reporter who captured the incident. He  told the New York Post that Neely was screaming “in an aggressive manner” but that he did not physically attack anyone.

“This was a horrible lynching – the murder of someone needing help,” student Shifa Rahman told media. “He was at a point of desperation and a citizen, acting in racial bias, acted to suppress that.”

Following his killing, police and media outlets were quick to note Neely’s criminal record, in which he’d been arrested over 40 times.

The tactic of assassinating the character of a murder victim was also used relentlessly by lynch mobs and media outlets throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, according to EJI.

Investigation ongoing

The city’s financial chief, or comptroller, Brad Lander, the city comptroller said NYC “must not become a city where a mentally ill human being can be choked to death by a vigilante without consequence.”

As the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office conducts an investigation into an incident that was caught on tape, Mayor Eric Adams continues to face pressure from residents and local leaders. In response to the criticism of his initial statement, he refused to condemn the actions of the ex-marine vigilante.

“I don’t think that’s very responsible at a time when we’re still investigating the situation. Let’s let the DA conduct his investigation with the law enforcement officials, to really interfere with that is not the right thing to do,” Mayor Adams said on CNN Primetime. “And I’m going to be responsible and allow them to do their job and allow them to determine what exactly happened here.”

Deon Osborne was born in Minneapolis, MN and raised in Lawton, OK before moving to Norman where he attended the University of Oklahoma. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Strategic Media and has...

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