'Still Can't Breathe': One Year After Eric Garner's Death, Justice Remains Elusive

A memorial for Eric Garner. (Photo: Getty)

'Still Can't Breathe': One Year After Eric Garner's Death, Justice Remains Elusive

Actions planned for Friday and Saturday to mark anniversary and call for accountability

Friday marks one year since 43-year-old Eric Garner, a black, unarmed father of six, died at the hands of a white New York City police officer.

But 365 days later, justice is still elusive, according to Garner's family--as well as the Black Lives Matter movement galvanized in part by his death.

Garner died on July 17, 2014 after New York City police officer Daniel Pantaleo used a chokehold to subdue him on a Staten Island sidewalk. In cell phone videos from the scene, Garner can be heard yelling "I can't breathe!" 11 times before he loses consciousness. A grand jury in December refused to indict Pantaleo, despite the fact that chokeholds are prohibited in the NYPD patrol guide and that the city medical examiner ruled the death a homicide.

Earlier this week, the Garner family announced it had reached a $5.9 million settlement with the city. However, family members used a press conference on Tuesday to renew calls for criminal charges against the officers involved in Garner's death.

"Don't congratulate us," Gwen Carr, Garner's mother, said at the time. "This is not a victory. The victory will come when we get justice."

To mark Friday's solemn occasion--and to amplify ongoing, unmet calls for accountability--a coalition of racial justice and police reform groups is joining forces to organize Friday's NYC #ShutItDown for Eric Garner solidarity march and rally, to which more than 1,500 people have already RSVP'd. Millions March NYC, NYC ShutItDown, Peoples Power Assemblies, and Black Lives Matter NYC are among the groups mobilizing.

"This Friday we stand in solidarity to honor Eric Garner and assert that #BlackLivesMatter," reads the call to action. "We will not tolerate unjust and immoral laws that continue to murder and oppress Black and Brown bodies. This Friday we show our resistance. This Friday we show our power."

Meanwhile, on Saturday, the NYCLU along with other civil rights, labor, and social justice organizations will hold a #Rally4Justice outside Brooklyn's Cadman Plaza to demand justice for Garner and transformation of the justice system.

According to Ashoka Jegroo at Waging Nonviolence, the demonstrations come after a week of commemorative actions. In addition to organizing a march in Staten Island on Monday, NYC Shut It Down staged surprise banner drops at two different locations this week, "to remind people that one year had passed without any legal consequences for Garner's killer or changes to the policies that led to Garner's death." The banners, which read "#ItStopsToday" and "I Can't Breathe," were unfurled inside Grand Central Terminal and from the High Line public park.

"On the days when no mass actions were scheduled, we planned strategic interventions in public spaces as reminders that Eric Garner and his family have still not seen justice, and that the conditions and policies that led to Eric Garner's death, including broken windows policing, have not been addressed," NYC Shut It Down member MJ Williams told Jegroo.

To mark the anniversary, AJ+ produced this video, featuring Garner's daughter Erica, his mother Gwen Carr, and his wife Esaw Garner:

Join Us: News for people demanding a better world

Common Dreams is powered by optimists who believe in the power of informed and engaged citizens to ignite and enact change to make the world a better place.

We're hundreds of thousands strong, but every single supporter makes the difference.

Your contribution supports this bold media model—free, independent, and dedicated to reporting the facts every day. Stand with us in the fight for economic equality, social justice, human rights, and a more sustainable future. As a people-powered nonprofit news outlet, we cover the issues the corporate media never will. Join with us today!

Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.