The death of George Floyd pleading with a Minneapolis police officer with his knee on his neck that he “can’t breathe” brought back bitter memories for Gwen Carr who six years ago in July, her son Eric Garner died after a chokehold resulted in his death in Staten Island.
Garner too pleaded with police, “I can’t breathe,” as the life was choked out of him that fateful day in July 2014.
Carr was again joined by Reverend Al Sharpton of the National Action Network and supporters in her Staten Island community on Saturday at the location where Garner was choked. They called for the upgrade of charges against that officer, and charges to be brought against three other cops who did nothing to stop the strangulation of Floyd.
Unlike last night’s violent protests in Brooklyn, in which cops were pelted with bottles, protestors pepper sprayed and arrested, and police vehicles destroyed by some demonstrators, the action in Staten Island was peaceful.
Sharpton called upon protestors to maintain peaceful actions and not cause damage to property – instead be loud and numerous.
This march followed last nights Brooklyn violence in which 200 people were arrested, protestors pepper sprayed, cops pelted with bottles, and numerous police vehicles destroyed or damaged.
Several hundred supporters marched from 200 Bay St., where Garner was choked as was being arrested for selling “loosies” (individual cigarettes), to the 120th Precinct about a half-mile away. Police Officer Daniel Pantaleo was eventually fired by then Police Commissioner James O’Neil for his part in the death of Garner, but he was never prosecuted, much to the anger of activists.
“We were marching, five and six days a week for Eric when everyone else was gone,” Carr recalled when her son died while in police custody. “I kept marching, even when the DOJ said they would not prosecute five years to the day when my son was killed. We said then and now, you gonna stop, we are not. We have to get justice for everybody. “
Carr insisted that their protests will remain peaceful, but “we must stand vigilent and strong, harness our anger to get to where we are going.”
Sharpton said he traveled to Minneapolis and insisted that the officer charged with George Floyd homicide be upgraded to murder in the first degree, but also to charge the other three officers who were there for failing to stop his death.
“We visited the scene of the crime and talking to the family of George Floyd,” Sharpton said at Saturday’s rally. “We wanted to come today and have a vigil with the mother of Eric Garner and his sister, because right at this spot we hear Eric Garner say, six years later, was said by George – ‘I can’t breathe.’ Policemen who are sworn to uphold the law and protect the public are the ones responsible for the death.”
“Reaction to murder would not have happened if there was no murder. Do not get it twisted,” Sharpton added. “When we got to Minneapolis, they asked us if we came to denounce violence. The violence began when a man put his knee on the neck an held him down for eight minutes. That violence needs to be dealt with. Third-degree murder does not fit the crime.”
Sharpton said he believes the officers knew he was unconscious or dying, and still “kept his knee on his throat for another two and a half minutes.”
“We don’t want just the one, we want all four officers,” said Sharpton as the crowd began chanting “all four, all four.” “You only need probable cause to make an arrest, and that is clearly there with the tape, clearly there with the actions. They should arrest them [and say] what they tell to our folk, ‘Tell it to the judge.'”
Hundreds of supporters then marched to the 120th Precinct, where a small contingent of police were spread out around the precinct. Several top cops, including Assistant Chief Kenneth Corey, the borough commander, stood with other commanders keeping watch for violence – but there was none.
“We are going to protest and we are going to be peaceful,” said Pastor Chris, who led the march that comprised demonstrators of all colors, religions and creeds. “We want people to know what has happened and we will make our anger known, but we will be peaceful.”