Eric Garner said “I can’t breathe” 11 times as he was being killed by an NYPD officer in Staten Island in 2014. Organizers are vowing 11 protests to mark the five years since his death while Garner’s mother, Gwen Carr, met with lawmakers about the situation.
This week, the Rev. Al Sharpton took Carr to Washington, D.C. to meet with multiple members of Congress following last week’s announcement that the
officer responsible for Garner’s death would not face federal charges. The meetings come on the heels of renewed calls to investigate police misconduct cases in Philadelphia, Chicago and New York City.
Carr met with U.S. senators and presidential candidates Kamala Harris, Kirsten Gillibrand and Cory Booker and Congressmembers Hakeem Jeffries, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ayanna Pressley.
“Last week’s decision by William Barr and the Justice Department was a severe miscarriage of justice. Eric’s family is justifiably outraged at the result—as am I,” said Sharpton. “We will not stand by while countless other families are ripped apart by the deaths of innocent Black Americans at the hands of law enforcement. It’s our sincerest hope that these meetings provide our elected representatives with the courage and resolve to stand up for justice.”
Garner’s children, Emerald and Eric Jr., started their eighth day of action with supporters in front of NYPD headquarters and a call for Commissioner James O’Neill to fire Officer Pantaleo on Tuesday.
A Change.org petition titled “Fire Daniel Pantaleo for The Murder of Eric Garner Now” has had over 64,000 signatures of support as of Wednesday, July 24.
“My family and I have stood by for five years waiting for a decision from the Department of Justice,” Emerald said. “They asked us to let them ‘investigate’ the murder of Eric Garner. What other evidence does one need to convict a murderer who was filmed in broad daylight killing an unarmed man?”
Thousands of protesters marched down to New York’s City Hall last week about the decision made by the Justice Department this week and several other protests are planned.
Last Thursday, Emerald met with Mayor de Blasio and his wife Chirlane McCray at Gracie Mansion for a private meeting. She told the mayor that Pantaleo, the NYPD officer who killed her father, should be fired.
When asked if he will be attending any of the protests in the City, New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio declined.
“The mayor expressed his position and I found it unacceptable,” Emerald said in a statement. “Nothing is going to stop us from continuing to protest and if we had to wait five years, we will protest five years.”
She added that she’s hosting a discussion at Canaan Baptist Church in Harlem on July 30 from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. to discuss the continued pursuit for justice.
Carr also had a meeting with de Blasio asking him to fire Pantaleo and the officers involved in her son’s death. In a statement, she said she’s not pleased with the mayor’s lack of action on holding the officers accountable.
“It is outrageous that I have had to be fighting for five years to get the mayor to do his job to make sure that there is accountability when the NYPD murders our children,” she said. “The mayor has been dragging his heels and obstructing accountability at every turn for the past five years—including letting his NYPD block CCRB charges against Pantaleo for almost a year, not charging any of the other officers who helped kill my son and tried to cover it up.”
Joined by supporters, Carr led a protest with Public Advocate Jumaane Williams on Thursday, July 18, outside of Gracie Mansion. The protest took place after the meeting and five demonstrators were arrested.
Last week marked five years since Garner’s death in 2014. He was killed by Pantaleo when the officer used a forbidden chokehold maneuver.
Garner’s cries for help have been a resounding highlight of the Black Live Matter movement and were noted by several high profile African-Americans. Garner’s death is just another on the long list of the senseless police brutality killings against people of color in the United States.
Medical Examiner Dr. Floriana Persechino believed Garner died of an asthma attack, which happened because Pantaleo used the banned submission tactic. An independent autopsy was conducted and found hemorrhaging around Garner’s neck.
A disciplinary trial is currently underway for Pantaleo to determine whether or not he will keep his job. The Justice Department decided no charges will be filed against Pantaleo and the NYPD.
“Like many of you, I have watched that video many times, and each time I’ve watched it, I’m left with the same reaction: that the death of Eric Garner was a tragedy,” said Brooklyn U.S Attorney General Richard Donoghue. “The job of the federal prosecutor, however, is not to let our emotions dictate our decisions. Our job is to review the evidence gathered during the investigation, like the video, to assess whether we can prove a federal crime was committed.”