By Julia Harte
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. civil rights leaders said Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Tuesday vowed to review the status of a federal investigation into the case of Eric Garner, an unarmed black man whose 2014 death at the hands of Washington police. New York City sparked protests.
Garner died in July 2014 after a white police officer strangled him. The Justice Department investigation into his death has been stalled by internal disagreements over whether federal investigators have enough evidence to proceed, according to news reports.
The Rev. Al Sharpton, a New York civil rights leader, urged Sessions to “act aggressively” in the case, Sharpton told reporters.
Garner, a father of six, was charged with illegally selling cigarettes on a sidewalk when an officer strangled him from behind and shot him down with the help of other officers. Garner repeatedly complained that he couldn’t breathe.
The city’s medical examiner ruled Garner’s death a homicide, with asthma and obesity as contributing factors.
The Garner case was the only issue Sessions promised to take action on during Tuesday’s 45-minute meeting with six civil rights advocates who expressed concern about his stance on police reform, voting laws, and women’s rights. minorities, advocates said at a news conference.
The Justice Department declined to comment on the meeting.
Sessions called three civil rights groups about a week after their Feb. 8 confirmation to express interest in speaking with them, Sharpton said.
Sessions declined to comment when advocates urged him to advise President Donald Trump against creating a voter fraud task force, said Sherrilyn Ifill, president of the NAACP’s Legal Defense Fund. Advocates cited numerous studies showing such fraud is rare in the United States, he said.
Civil rights leaders said they also expressed disappointment with the Justice Department’s recent decisions to reverse the Obama administration’s efforts to challenge a Texas voter identification law and allow transgender students to use the bathroom of their choice.
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