The recent death of 30-year-old Michael Jackson impersonator Jordan Neely has sparked outrage and protests in New York City. Neely was choked to death on a subway car on May 1st, and his death has been classified as homicide by the city’s medical examiner. Despite this, no charges have been filed against the perpetrator, a 24-year-old US Marine veteran who has not been named by authorities.
Neely was a popular Michael Jackson impersonator who had gained a following within and beyond New York City due to his videos being widely shared on social media. He was also known to be homeless, hungry, and thirsty, and he had complained about these issues before he was pinned down by the perpetrator, who placed him in a chokehold for several minutes.
Eyewitness Juan Alberto Vazquez, a freelance journalist, told The New York Post how the fatal incident took place. Neely boarded the northbound F train at Second Avenue station and began making a speech. “He started screaming aggressively,” Vazquez told the New York Post. “He said he had no food, he had no drink, that he was tired and doesn’t care if he goes to jail. He started screaming all these things, took off his jacket, a black jacket that he had, and threw it on the ground.”
At this point, the stranger, the 24-year-old Marine veteran, stepped in to tackle Neely. A video of the incident showed Neely flailing his arms and legs to free himself as the straphanger had him in a headlock, while another bystander helped to hold him down on the floor of the subway train. “He moved his arms but he couldn’t express anything,” Vazquez said of Neely. “All he could do was move his arms. Then suddenly he just stopped moving,” Vasquez recalled. “He was out of strength.”
The eyewitness expressed mixed feelings about the incident, as he said Neely had not physically attacked anyone on the train before he was taken down.
Protesters marched in Manhattan on May 3rd to demand justice for Neely and to demand that charges be filed against the perpetrator. The New York mayor and police have been criticized for their lack of action over Neely’s death, and crowds also protested in New York on subway trains. According to local reports, protesters began assembling at New York City’s Broadway-Lafayette subway station on May 5th, where Neely was taken to the hospital, to protest his death. Chants of ‘black lives matter,’ ‘Justice for Jordan Neely,’ ‘F*** Eric Adams’ and ‘the homeless matter’ were heard. As many as four arrests were made at the protest.
New York State Senator Jabari Brisport condemned the incident as “lynching”. “Jordan Neely was lynched. He had no food, no water, no safe place to rest. He dared to publicly yell about that massive injustice, so they killed him,” he wrote in a tweet. According to The Guardian, Minister Ray Tarvin dismissed the attempt to show Neely as aggressive and violent. “He was a nice person, not aggressive or violent. Everyone who knew him knows that. He’d accept anything you had – many of the homeless down here are sober. They’re needing food or shelter or clothing, not strung out and shooting up dope,” said Minister Ray Tarvin during a protest on May 5th in the subway, as quoted by the report.