Protesters filled New York’s Foley Park with coffins and posters as they marched Wednesday to urge the New York Police Department to fire officers involved in the choking death of Eric Garner.
The rally dubbed “We are Eric Garner” was held on the five-year anniversary of Garner’s death July 17, 2014, at the hands of white New York police officer Daniel Pantaleo.
Cellphone footage shared on Twitter captured the demonstrators marching well into the night in some areas.
Protesters blocked the entrance to the New York Police Department building shouting: “Shut it down.”
They marched in the rain in front of the Pantaleo’s home on Staten Island, and they called on New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio to hold the officer accountable.
In the aftermath of a U.S. Department of Justice decision not to file civil rights charges against Pantaleo, De Blasio released a statement Tuesday.
“Years ago, we put our faith in the federal government to act,” he said. “We won’t make that mistake again.”
The mayor went on to say that “New York City is not the same city it was five years ago.”
“We are a different city, and we must act like a different city,” he said. “Moving forward, we will not wait for the federal government to commence our own disciplinary proceedings.”
It is unclear if Pantaleo will face disciplinary action at this point, but that’s what protesters still outraged about Garner’s death want.
Garner was unarmed when Pantaleo tried to arrest him by placing him in a chokehold following an accusation that Garner was selling single cigarettes outside a store on Staten Island.
The incident sparked national attention with Garner’s last words becoming the rallying cry of protesters — “I can’t breathe.”
One group of protesters in the recent rally said the phrase 11 times and counted each time they did.
“I can’t breathe, nine. I can’t breathe 10. I can’t breathe 11,” they chanted.
They stopped when they reached the same number of times Garner gasped the phrase before he ultimately died.
Standing on the same Justice Department steps as civil rights activist Al Sharpton, the Garner family spoke out about the Department of Justice decision at a press conference Tuesday.
“As you all can tell I’m very angry. I am very angry,” Eric Garner’s daughter Emerald Garner said. “I stand here in the spirit of my sister who fought for justice until her dying day for my father.”
Emerald Garner said her sister Erica Garner “fought for justice until her dying day for my father.”
The woman died in 2017 of a heart attack, according to USA Today.
Erica Garner called the Department of Justice to investigate her father’s death and also filed a complaint with the Civilian Complaint Review Board, an independent agency tasked with investigating complaints against New York City police and recommending action.
“They didn’t do their job, so no. I’m going to stand outside and I’m going to scream it,” Emerald Garner said. “Pantaleo needs to be fired. He needs to be fired.”
Photo Credit: Yahoo News