The late Erica Garner standing at a memorial for her father (281829)
Credit: Bill Moore photo

If the amount of worn shoe leather was any indication of how the people in New York City felt about the on-camera death of Eric Garner, according to grassroots activists who fought for justice in this July 2014 case, then officer Daniel Pantaleo should have been arrested on sight.

As it is—five years later—his mom Gwen Carr and dozens of others are heading down to Washington, D.C. on Monday, July 15, to demand that the Department of Justice take action two days before the statute runs out.

“The Justice Department seems to be at a stand still,” said Gwen Carr. “It seems like they waiting for the statute to run out. After the Trump administration took over we have gotten no movement. Zero. And we were supposed to hear something at year’s end two years ago. And we have heard absolutely nothing from the DOJ in two years.”

On Wednesday, July 10, activists and community from the First Central

Baptist Church met in Staten Island, Garner’s hometown, to organize the Eric Garner Had a Right to Life Rally on July 15 in Washington, D.C.

As they made preparations for the NYC to DC rally the organizers stated, “Your support is crucial as we continue planning and then rally on Monday to demand justice for Eric Garner.”

Meanwhile, the city awaits the outcome of the June disciplinary case prosecuted by the Civilian Complaint Review Board at 1 Police Plaza in Lower Manhattan. Pantaleo did not testify on his own behalf; excerpts from an Internal Affairs report were read instead by his lawyer Stuart London. The police attorney stated that his client had not used a banned chokehold on Garner on July 17, 2014, as widely and consistently reported, but was merely “trying to bring him down to the ground,” applying a “seatbelt” maneuver.

When it became known that Pantaleo would not be speaking, the DOJ’s federal prosecutor Elizabeth Geddes got up and left the court room.

Carr’s press spokesman at the time, Dan Morris from Progressive Cities, stated, “In 2014, Pantaleo killed Eric Garner with a chokehold that has been banned by the NYPD for over two decades. Ms. Carr is calling on the NYPD to fire not only Pantaleo but all other officers responsible for misconduct related to the killing of Eric Garner and attempts to cover it up.”

The police version was that Garner had been selling cigarettes on a Staten Island street when they approached him. Other folks say he was actually breaking up a fight when they decided to confront him.

“It has been a long and rugged journey,” said Carr. “But, I said that I am going to continue this fight—if I don’t stand up, hold up my son’s name, speak out, who will? Even though we did not get an indictment, which was an insult to injury, I fought to get the departmental hearing, because the NYPD was not going to do anything. I fought to get the CCRB meeting. They fought me every step of the way. The DeBlasio administration fought me for five years—all I got were disruptions and him blocking everything I tried to do.”

While the NYPD responded to a request for a comment on the police department hearing with, “There are no updates,” the Department of Justice did not respond by press time.

The grassroots push to make then Attorney General Loretta Lynch take the case came after then Staten Island D.A. Daniel Donovan refused to indict Pantaleo.

During that time with the not-concluded NYPD internal investigation ongoing, the then Police Commissioner Bill Bratton and Mayor Bill de Blasio refused to release the details of any NYPD findings in the internal investigation.

The year 2014 saw massive anti-police-violence demonstrations across the nation for Mike Brown from St. Louis, Tamir Rice from Ohio, Ron Singleton from New York, Tanisha Anderson from Cleveland, and Jerame Reid from New Jersey.

New York for Eric Garner was no different.

Ramsey Orta caught Garner begging for his life on his cellphone—and his “I can’t breathe” plea to arresting officers became an international refrain and symbolic quote worldwide.

Orta found himself arrested several times thereafter on a number of charges, and was ultimately sentenced to four years in prison on an unrelated gun charge.

The Garner killing was added to a list often quoted by activists, who determined families of victims did not see justice. Names include Eleanor Bumpurs, Anthony Baez, Nicholas Heyward Jr., Randy Evans, Timothy Stansbury, Ouseman Zongo, John Callado, Amadou Diallo, Mohamed Bah, Deborah Danner, Saheed Vassell, Malcolm Ferguson, Delrawn Small, Ramarley Graham, Sean Bell, Shantel Davies, and Akai Gurley.

“I feel like no matter who ‘investigates’ the murder of my father no one will go to jail in the end,” Eric Garner’s daughter Erica said in 2016. “I use Freddie Gray, Tamir Rice, and Mike Brown as my examples.”

The now deceased advocate for her father was speaking as news broke on Tuesday, Oct. 25, 2016, that President Barack Obama’s administration’s Department of Justice was looking to indict Pantaleo.

“I’m glad to see Attorney General Lynch is fighting for what is clearly justice, but this problem is bigger than her. Until there is full transparency, accountability and an end to the 13th Amendment, Black lives will continue to be worthless in the eyes of the law. I think that Mayor de Blasio should fire Daniel Pantaleo immediately. He won’t do that because he is an active participant of this cover-up. It is so sad to see the mayor give lip service to families like mine, Amadou Diallo’s or Deborah Danner’s, and then tap dance for Pat Lynch and the police union. When I heard his son say that this de Blasio would end the stop and frisk era of policing, I believed him. We see what it looks like in reality…More of the same. I heard the lip service that the mayor gave the public concerning the new commissioner, let’s just say so far I’m unimpressed.”

Erica, a mother of an at the time 4-month-old and a 7-year-old, died from a heart attack Dec. 30, 2017.

Saying that this young fighter simply just “never recovered from when her father died,” Carr said, “She was very, very adamant about trying to get justice for her father, and I think with all the stress that contributed to her having such an early death.”

Carr, now an author with her book, “This Stops Today,” describes the tome as “a call to action.”

“When I found out about my son’s demise it just tore me apart. It put a hole in my heart…I had despair, anger, outrage,” she said.

Saying that she tries to maintain her composure while keeping “my breakdown moments to myself,”this member of Mothers of the Movement (whose children were slain by law enforcement, “a group that no one wants to be a part of,”) Carr explained that she maintains “with the strength of my family and organizations that I have joined; they have helped me to guide my steps and put this in the right direction.

“I have community support from all around the nation, even from people I’ll probably never meet. I thank God for them. I vow to not let this get swept under the rug, not just for my son, but other people’s children, for the unborn. I have to advocate, because I can’t let them keep killing off our generation.”

Organizers for the NYC to DC rally stated, “We also encourage organizations, activist-oriented or religious, to provide transportation for their members to join us. This is an unparalleled opportunity to hold our government accountable and to make our voices as a coalition for justice be heard.” Scheduled speakers include politicians, activists, Garner’s legal team members and supporters.

For more information contact Ghislaine at ghislaine.pages@gmail.com.