Family, supporters mark anniversary of New York chokehold death
Family and supporters on Friday marked the anniversary of the police killing of Eric Garner with rallies and vigils demanding police reforms and justice in the controversial case.
Protesters gathered on Staten Island, the New York City borough where Garner, a 43-year-old black father of six, died last July 17 after New York police put him in a banned chokehold.
His death spurred a nationwide debate over how U.S. police treat minorities. Video footage of police arresting Garner, in which he could be heard repeatedly saying he could not breathe, went viral on the Internet, helping draw attention to the case.
A grand jury declined to indict the white police officer involved.
Garner’s death was ruled a homicide by the city medical examiner, who said police killed him by compressing his neck and chest as they restrained him for selling loose cigarettes.
The family reached a $5.9 million settlement with New York City this week and also wants the U.S. attorney to pursue a federal civil rights case.
Garner’s widow and children, joined by about 100 mourners, marked the anniversary with a mix of gospel songs and tributes at the Caanan Baptist Church of Christ in the historically black neighborhood of Harlem.
“I’ll never overcome the grief, that will never happen,” Garner’s youngest daughter, Emerald Garner, 23, said in an interview. “All the money in the world can’t bring my father back. A settlement is not justice. Justice to me is to hold the police accountable for what they do.”
The Rev. Al Sharpton drew applause when he spoke of the calls for change brought on by Garner’s death. “Who would have thought, Emerald, that your father would be the impetus of a movement?” he said.
On Staten Island demonstrators carried placards and banners reading “Black Lives Matter” and rally organizer Travis Morales shouted, “One year and still we have no justice.”
On the sidewalk where Garner died, about 50 people gathered to place white roses and other mementos on a small memorial of candles and handwritten signs that commemorate his death.
Each time a rose was laid down, they shouted “I can’t breathe” in reference to Garner’s dying words.
A late-afternoon rally in Manhattan’s Columbus Circle drew about 200 people and other rallies are planned for Saturday.
The debate about police treatment of minorities intensified in the month following Garner’s death, after a white police officer fatally shot unarmed black teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, sparking violent protests in the St. Louis suburb.
(Editing by Ellen Wulfhorst and Eric Beech)