Jordan Neely, a 30-year-old homeless man, was strangled to death aboard a New York City subway train on May 1 by a 24-year-old guy called Daniel Penny. Later, Penny was accused of manslaughter. Neely’s choking was viewed by many New Yorkers as a horrifying act of violence, yet it was also perceived by some as a response to concerns about public safety. Conservatives on the political right have immediately adopted Penny.
A large crowd, including the Rev. Al Sharpton, gathered to pay their respects to Mr. Neely, who was strangled to death earlier this month on the F train.
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The Rev. Al Sharpton delivered a eulogy at the burial for homeless man Jordan Neely, who was popularly known by New Yorkers for impersonating King of Pop, Micheal Jackon. Mr. Neely was slain by another subway rider in New York City, who stated that the homeless man was displaying hostile behavior towards the other passengers.
Jordan Neely spent his final two weeks alone with no family that could express care towards him, hungry, and in need on New York’s subway system.
However, hundreds attended Mr. Neely’s funeral at Mount Neboh Baptist Church in Harlem, including friends, family, well-known Democratic politicians, and the Rev. Al Sharpton, who gave the eulogy. This was a show of support for a man who died alone and in anonymity.
It has sparked debate between those who believe that Mr. Neely’s murderer, Daniel Penny, behaved brutally vigilante in reaction to a person who needed help and those who believe he was attempting to stop a threat. Additionally, it has raised questions about the safety of the trains as well as the care provided to locals who are homeless and mentally ill.
In a passionate eulogy, Mr. Sharpton called for an act of responsibility for Mr. Neely’s murder and claimed that there had been a “distortion of values” in the weeks before, alluding to the portrayal of Mr. Penny by his attorneys and others as a hero who was guarding terrified passengers.
“Jordan was screaming for help.”Mr. Sharpton stated. He added, In a speech that led the audience to stand up, “We keep criminalizing people with mental illness. “
Rev. Sharpton noted, “They don’t need abuse, they need help.”
Mr. Neely was well known as a Michael Jackson impersonator among visitors and locals in New York. An online fundraising drive was begun to assist Mr. Penny with his legal defense. The funding increased to almost $2.6 million in donations after receiving support from conservative leaders.
The chokehold was captured on camera for four minutes, but there are still many questions about what transpired before that. Witnesses told police that Mr. Neely had claimed to be hungry, thirsty, and “ready to die.” There is no evidence that he physically attacked anyone.
More than 200 people crowded into the chapel where Mr. Neely’s body was interred in a white casket covered with red and white flowers. In memory of Mr. Neely, a performer who impersonated Michael Jackson on the street, some mourners showed up in Michael Jackson costumes.
The funeral, according to church authorities, should be a time to reflect on Mr. Neely’s life. The Curtis Mayfield song “People Get Ready” was sung by a cappella ensemble. Photos showing Mr. Neely as a young child, a beaming graduate, and wearing a red and black leather jacket evocative of Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” era were shown in the funeral program.
But a large portion of the ceremony was devoted to the indignation that Mr. Neely’s death had caused.
Yusef Salaam, a candidate for Harlem City Council, attended the burial with his mother. During his eulogy, he drew comparisons between Mr. Neely’s passing and his own experience as one of the Exonerated Five, a group of youths wrongfully convicted of the 1989 rape of a white woman in Central Park.
“Here we are in the year 2023, having witnessed the lynching, a lynching, a lynching in the public square,” said Mr. Salaam, whose sentence was revoked in 2002. “A lynching of a Black man who was never given a chance by the system designed to keep him oppressed,” the statement reads.
Politicians in the city have questioned why Mr. Penny was not detained right away after the killing; this criticism was reiterated by attendees at the memorial service.
According to Mr. Sharpton, if Mr. Neely had been a black man who had choked a white Elvis Presley lookalike, the police “would not have let that Black guy leave the precinct that night.”
Clio Calvo-Platero, a spokesperson for the Civilian Complaint Review Board, an impartial organization charged with looking into police wrongdoing, announced on Friday that the board had received a complaint over the police’s choice not to press charges straight away.
As an “abuse of authority,” the allegation was being looked into by the agency, according to Ms. Calvo-Platero.
Police stated in a statement that they looked into situations to “ensure probable cause exists to make an arrest.”
The N.Y.P.D. ” collected and examined the evidence, interviewed multiple witnesses at the scene, and immediately began searching for additional witnesses to gain a complete picture of the facts,” according to the police. Together with the Manhattan district attorney’s office, the inquiry was conducted.
A small number of demonstrators carried signs demanding responsibility outside the church on the day of the funeral, and there were numerous police officers there. Mourners inside listened carefully to Mr. Sharpton’s statement as the environment remained largely peaceful.
Mr. Neely served as an illustration of how the city’s systems are “choking the homeless” and “choking the mentally ill,” he claimed.
He remarked, “When they choked Jordan, they put their arms around all of us.” He expressed, “All of us have the right to live.”
Mr. Sharpton was unwavering in his condemnation of Mr. Penny and of officials like Florida’s Republican governor Ron DeSantis who characterized Mr. Penny as a good Samaritan throughout his speech.
“A good Samaritan helps those in trouble,” he expresses. “They don’t choke them.”
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, and Lt. Governor Antonio Delgado were among the Democratic officials who attended the burial. Mayor Eric Adams, who has come under fire from Mr. Neely’s family and left-leaning legislators for his subdued first response to the tragedy, was not there.
“Jordan Neely’s life mattered and his death was a tragedy,” said Fabien Levy, a representative for Mr. Adams. He added, “Mayor Adams is thinking about Jordan and his family today, and wanted to ensure that Jordan was the sole focus at today’s service.”
According to friends, Mr. Neely was a gifted dancer who loved giving performances in front of bewildered visitors and subway users.
Since Mr. Neely’s passing, Moses Harper, a street performer who frequently danced with him, has received calls from admirers in Australia and Europe who recalled his performances.
Standing in front of the church, she remarked, “Jordan loved interacting with people all over the world who were visiting New York City.” Harper noted, “It wasn’t just that he was dancing. He was connecting with people from all different walks of life.”
However, his family said that in recent years, he had been battling mental illness and addiction, issues brought on by the death of his mother, Christie Neely, who was slain by her lover when Mr. Neely was 14 years old.
Ms. Neely’s burial had been held at the same church, with her son sitting in the front and gazing at her casket, Mr. Sharpton pointed out.
According to Ms. Harper, Mr. Neely had frequently discussed how the loss of his mother had affected him. He was never really healed, she continued, as he ought to have been.
“What happened to his mother, it left a scar on him,” Ms. Harper said following the burial.
Later, Mr. Neely was detained several times, mostly for offenses like trespassing or jumping turnstiles. However, at least four people were detained on punching-related charges, including one in a subway.
He was included in the “Top 50” list, which outreach workers refer to as the city’s list of homeless persons who are deemed to be in the greatest need of aid and care.
Following the burial, people filed out onto the street where “Billie Jean” was being played instrumentally while a man breakdanced in the middle of 114th Street.
Mr. Neely’s family and the hearse transporting Mr. Neely’s body were taken by a police escort a portion of the way to a cemetery in Valhalla, New York, for a private burial. The majority of the fans who had stayed close to the church quickly dispersed.