WASHINGTON (AFP) - The US Justice Department will launch a federal civil rights investigation into the choking death in New York of a black man at the hands of a white policeman, Attorney General Eric Holder said on Wednesday.The announcement came hours after a New York grand jury opted not to indict the police officer in the death of Eric Garner, sparking protests in the United States’ largest city.“Now that the local investigation has concluded, I am here to announce that the Justice Department will proceed with a federal civil rights investigation into Mr. Garner’s death,” Holder said in a statement.The top US federal law enforcement official said he had spoken with Garner’s widow, President Barack Obama and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio about his decision.“Our prosecutors will conduct an independent, thorough, fair and expeditious investigation. In addition to performing our own investigative work, the department will conduct a complete review of the material gathered during the local investigation,” he stressed.“I know that substantial numbers of people in New York and across the country will be disappointed and frustrated by the outcome of the state grand jury proceeding today,” Holder said. “I know many will plan to voice their disappointment publicly through protests. This is the right of all Americans.“But as I have said before, throughout our history, the most successful movements have been those that adhered to the principles of nonviolence.”
As he spoke, Holder – the first African American to hold the attorney general post, under the first black US president – demonstrators took to the streets in New York City and Washington to protest the New York grand jury’s move.