“I believe in getting right up in their face,” Gwen Carr told the AmNews Tuesday. “I don’t believe in phone calls and letters because those go unanswered.”
Carr discussed her new book “This Stops Today” and her reasons for documenting her struggles and chronicling the movement after her son, Eric Garner, died at the hands of police. Carr said it isn’t about her completely, but it is about people across the country affected by police brutality.
“I’m hoping to alleviate the pain for some of the mothers [of police brutality victims],” said Carr. “I wanted to show what I was doing before my journey, during my journey and after my journey.”
Carr’s son Garner was killed by members of the New York Police Department via a chokehold. The video of the incident aired on multiple news channels across the country and on the internet and etched the phrase “I can’t breathe” into the national consciousness. Garner’s death sparked the trend of Black and Brown people across America recording their interactions with the police.
Carr, a retired transit train operator, devotes her time to fighting against police brutality and for racial equality. When asked how she found the strength to become a public advocate and activist after a public tragedy, she said it took a while.
“My strength didn’t come exactly right away,” said Carr. “I never thought I’d be able to do what I’m doing now, but after listening to what’s going on in the world—and after galvanized protests and meetups with different groups—I found that by me getting out there and uplifting my son’s name helped with my healing.”
Carr used the pain of her son’s death to reach out to others who shared similar pain. She said she understood the importance of looking outward instead of inward at that moment.
“Keeping it to yourself and bottled up inside brings on more pain,” said Carr. “But by releasing it and telling people your story and having people say they were helped by your words means a lot.”
Although the Brooklyn native started speaking out against police brutality after Garner’s death, high-profile extrajudicial killings by police officers have continued and more videos of these incidents have surfaced. Whether it’s Tamir Rice or Philando Castile, the Black community continues to wrestle with justice not being served. Carr thinks these killings aren’t an accident.
“This is part of a retaliation,” said Carr. “I feel like since we get out here and we make it public what’s going on. It helps. It may not be a big step, but it’s a step in the right direction.”
But what are the police allegedly retaliating over?
“I think they’re retaliating because my son’s death was caught on video and it went viral,” said Carr. “It put more focus on the NYPD and the police departments across the nation, so they don’t like that. And they really resent it. You shouldn’t have resentment if you’re doing your job the way you should do your job.”
That is the crux of what Carr wants the public to learn. If the job is done properly, more lives would be saved, especially Black and Brown lives. That’s why she has taken it to Albany and is pushing for the state government to do right by the community. Carr mentioned an executive order from New York State Gov. Andrew Cuomo that called for a prosecutor in cases in which police kill unarmed individuals. The goal is to take it out of the hands of the local district attorney and put it in the hands of the New York State attorney general.
A push to make this law permanent passed in the Democratic-dominated state Assembly, but failed in the state Senate when it was still IDC-dominated. With the Democrats taking both branches in the last election, Carr hopes to get it on the books and not have to rely on an executive order to save people in positions like hers.
“We go up and confront the lawmakers,” said Carr. “We go up to Albany because it’s our capital and that’s where the laws are made. It’s more of a personal direct response that you get from them and you tell them that you’re gonna hold them accountable.”
“This Stops Today,” which includes a foreword from Hillary Clinton, is available from booksellers.