The daughter of one of the men whose recent death at the hands of police has sparked a growing national movement against police brutality and racism led a small, yet poignant march in Staten Island, New York on Thursday night and then laid down in the spot where her father lost his life after he was violently assaulted by officers earlier this year.
"This is the spot ... they let an innocent man die, beg for his life, fight for his last breath, and now I have to come here and be his voice because he cannot speak anymore."
—Erica Garner, daughter of Eric GarnerErica Garner, named after her father Eric Garner, said she has been holding twice-weekly vigils since her father was killed in July of this year but that last night's turnout was by far the largest she's seen.
As the Guardian reports:
The group staged a “die-in” next to the makeshift memorial, with people lying in the streets on a nearly freezing cold night in the New York City borough.
Garner said she will continue to lead protests in Staten Island twice a week in memory of her father, who died at age 43 after NYPD officer Daniel Pantaleo put him in the chokehold. Garner’s last words – “I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe” – have become a rallying cry for protesters across the US since a grand jury decided not to indict Pantaleo last month.
Before lying down, Erica spoke to the gathered crowd through a megaphone.
"This is the spot," she said, "that my father screamed out eleven times that he couldn't breathe. Nobody helped him. Nobody tried to help him. Nobody tried to assist him. This is the spot that EMS workers and police officers failed us New Yorkers, because they let an innocent man die, beg for his life, fight for his last breath, and now I have to come here and be his voice because he cannot speak anymore. He can't say it: 'I cant breathe... I can't breathe.'"
"He couldn't breathe," she continued. "This is the spot where my father took his last breath in. And this is where I had to be. There is where I need to be. My father is here with me."
Following local protests that have emerged in cities across the country and around the world as a result of Garner's death and the killing of others at the hands of police, a pair of large-scale protests calling for an end to racism and police brutality are scheduled for Saturday in both New York City and Washington, DC.