Fact Sheet: The Case For Jordan Neely
The Victim: Jordan Neely (B)
The Victimizer: Daniel Penny (W)
Cause of Death: asphyxiation, chokehold
Date of Death: May 01, 2023
Location: New York (subway)
The Incident: On May 01, 2023, Jordan Neely became frustrated and aired out his grievances to passengers on a subway about being homeless, hungry and thirsty in New York. After he did so, Daniel Penny placed Neely in a chokehold for 15 minutes. Penny’s use of the chokehold on Neely resulted in his death.
The Case For Jordan Neely: Neely was a 30-year-old homeless man who loved Michael Jackson and impersonated the late Thriller performer in New York City. Several videos of Neely’s past Michael Jackson performances have surfaced online. The reason why this fact is important in this particular case is because it shows his extraordinary dance skills, love for pop music and entertainment, and acts of kindness to the public. Indeed, several individuals who met Neely saw a human being who had so much potential.
It cannot be denied that Neely had a lot of burdens. He was struggling with homelessness and had visited health care professionals and did not get the care he needed. He was also being held back by a criminal past. While I do not advocate for or condone violence, or any of the allegations made against Neely, it is clear there is a bigger issue at play, and the U.S. Government is partly responsible.
Although the media would like to turn attention on Neely’s criminal past, the following factors likely contributed to the Neely we seen before his death:
New York’s Homeless Problem: Neely was residing New York’s public space. In other words, Neely was homeless. In 2022, New York City estimated that 3,439 homeless people were residing in public spaces. This year, there were 67,880 homeless children and adults living in shelters managed by the city’s Department of Homeless Services and thousands more living in shelters managed by other city agencies.
Housing in International Law: In international law, housing is a human right. As per the United Nations, the obligation to fulfil requires States, like the United States, to adopt appropriate legislative, administrative, budgetary, judicial, promotional and other measures to fully realize the right to adequate housing for its citizens.
Political Commentators Seek to Dehumanize Neely Instead of Addressing the Inadequacy of Housing in the United States: There are several ways the U.S. Government and Political Commentators are trying to dehumanize Neely:
- First, the U.S. Government has resurrected Neely’s past criminal record. By doing this, the U.S. Government expects to activate the “horn effect,” which the public will be unduly influenced by Neely’s past negative traits and ignore the fact he was murdered by a vigilante on a public subway.
- Second, the U.S. Government is instructing the media to bring up Neely’s alleged mental health issues, claiming that he suffers from Schizophrenia. While Neely could have a mental health disorder; and it may seem like the U.S. Government cares about Neely’s welfare, mental illness has been a smokescreen that the U.S. Government has used in the past to further discredit Black Americans, imprison them or, to cause their loss of specific rights.
- Third, the U.S. Government has made attempts to conceal the name of Penny, while hurling at us, negative facts about Neely. Although Penny’s name was later released, the U.S. Government has made several attempts to inoculate the public by stressing that Penny was a marine. By doing this, the U.S. hopes to activate the “halo effect,” where the public will be influenced by Penny’s previous military performance.
- Fourth, the U.S. Government is attempting to take attention off the fact that Neely, at the time Penny murdered him, was not a threat to anyone. Chanting and screaming does not constitute a death sentence. The United Nations have stated that homeless people are much more vulnerable to violence, threats and harassment (Right to Housing, p. 22). Indeed, videos have surfaced on individuals taunting and provoking Neely over his Michael Jackson performances. While there could be some other issue at play, those have yet to come to light.
Neely could not fully enjoy his rights, such as the right to food, because he could not afford to buy adequate food. I would even go so far as to say that Neely was also unable to obtain food because of the persistent patterns of discrimination in political and social participation in the U.S.
How the U.S. Government Failed Neely:
- Right to Adequate Housing: the U.S. Government has not fulfilled its obligation to protect homeless persons nationwide. As per the United Nations, States should regulate the housing and rental markets in a way that promotes and protects the right to adequate housing.
- Right to Adequate Food: Food was not available, accessible or adequate for Neely. While there is no right to be fed by the Government, Neely does have a right to feed himself in dignity (Right to Adequate Food, p. 3). Whenever individuals or groups are unable, for reasons beyond their control, to enjoy the right to food by the means at their disposal, the U.S. has the obligation to provide. An example provided by the United Nations is providing food assistance or ensuring social safety nets for the most deprived.
Links between Neely’s Human Right to Food and other human rights:
- The right to life. When people are not able to feed themselves, they face the risk of death by starvation, malnutrition or resulting illnesses. It is uncertain whether Neely truly wanted to die. Even if he did, he should not be extrajudicially executed on a subway by a civilian. As we heard from Neely’s plea, his right to life, food and water was at stake, and the way the public responded is by ending his life.