The opening statements at Wednesday’s Democratic presidential debate in Detroit were interrupted by demonstrators protesting the death of Eric Garner and NYPD officer Daniel Pantaleo, whose chokehold killed the 43-year-old black man in 2014.
During New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s opening remarks, the protesters began shouting “fire Pantaleo!”
The shouts grew louder a few moments later as Sen. Cory Booker spoke.
“Last week, the president of the United States attacked an American city, calling it a disgusting, rat-infested, rodent mess,” Booker began before the “fire Pantaleo!” chant resumed. The New Jersey senator paused as CNN’s moderators Jake Tapper, Dana Bash and Don Lemon allowed security to remove the protesters.
The New Jersey senator then finished his remarks without interruption.
Earlier this month, the Justice Department decided it would not bring federal civil rights charges against Pantaleo. De Blasio, who often invokes Garner on the campaign trail, has resisted calls to fire Pantaleo, saying he will await a separate administrative trial before determining his fate.
The de Blasio campaign did not immediately return a request seeking comment.
Booker, the former Newark mayor, has called for Pantaleo’s firing.
“This decision is wrong, unjust and painful reminder of just how broken our criminal justice system is,” he tweeted on July 16. “Eric Garner should be alive today. I pray his loved ones can find peace.”
After delivering his opening statement, Booker, or more likely a member of his campaign, tweeted about the incident.
“To the folks who were standing up to Mayor de Blasio a few minutes ago—good for you,” read a message from Booker’s Twitter feed. “That’s how change is made.”