(CN) – A group of 13 YouTube personalities urged voters not to let U.S. Rep. Michael Grimm’s seat go to the Staten Island prosecutor who let Eric Garner’s killer walk.
Though a medical examiner ruled Garner’s death last summer in a police chokehold was a homicide, the grand jury whom District Attorney Dan Donovan empanelled for the case declined to indict Garner’s killer, Officer Daniel Pantaleo, in December.
Weeks later, Donovan saw the chance for a position in Washington when Rep. Grimm, the Republican congressman tasked with representing Staten Island and the southern tip of Brooklyn, pleaded guilty to felony tax fraud.
With Donovan at the helm of the Grimm prosecution, the congressman blasted the charges as a politically motivated bid to steal his seat.
Others saw it as a political move this past March when Donovan defended his decision to keep the Eric Garner grand jury’s deliberations secret.
With the polls to fill Grimm’s seat open Tuesday until 9 p.m., Donovan’s opponent running for the Democrats, New York City Councilman Vincent Gentile, found support in a unique YouTube ad.
Awaken PR says nonpartisan digital-media company USfluence, a group with 40 million monthly views, sponsored the 2-minute spot, which brings together YouTube personalities like Josh Paler Lin, Arielle Scarcella and Jaclyn Glenn.
USfluence says it’s the first time “YouTubers” have banded together to influence the outcome of a U.S. election.
“YouTubers have a relationship with their fans that is authentic, highly personal, hugely influential and incredibly effective at driving action,” USfluence managing director Ryan Yudell said in a statement. “They believe police abuse of power and the subsequent political cover ups have gotten out of control. They believe Dan Donovan didn’t do his job as district attorney to stand up for the citizens of the 11th District and they absolutely don’t want to see him promoted to Congress.”
Donovan, a Republican, is expected to win the race tonight against Gentile, but one of the YouTube personalities warned voters that this outcome is all the more certain “if you do nothing.”
“You could literally change the election and show the world that police must be held accountable,” the YouTube personalities say in the video , after a clip of Garner gasping out his final words, “I can’t breathe,” in Pantaleo’s chokehold.
Grimm stepped down after copping to a single tax-evasion charge involving unreported earnings and wages at his Manhattan health-food eatery.
A former FBI agent and Marine who fought in the Gulf War, Grimm at first denied the charges, then changed course, pleaded guilty and quit.
Before his conviction, the congressman made headlines when cameras caught him threatening to throw a television reporter over a balcony for inquiring about the investigation.
The YouTube video comes in the wake of riots in Baltimore last week following the police-killing of Freddie Gray.
“I am very selective about sharing my political views with my audience,” YouTube personality Scarcella said in a statement. “But when something as important as this comes up I just can’t sit on the sidelines and hope for the best. As Americans we have a right to expect fairness from the police and those in charge of making sure they are doing the right thing.
“Donovan didn’t do that and doesn’t belong in Congress. He failed us as a district attorney and I hope my fans in the district vote against him on Tuesday.”
AwakenPR say YouTube viewers in New York have seen the ad 103,000 times.
USfluence is based in Sherman Oaks, Calif., and seeks to connect YouTube viewers with various campaigns.
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