NEW YORK — “We are Eric Garner! We need justice and we need it now!” hundreds of demonstrators chanted July 17 as they marched to police headquarters here demanding the cop who killed Garner be fired. Five years earlier Garner, a 43-year-old worker, was brutally assaulted by cops on Staten Island. One of them, Daniel Pantaleo, was captured on video by bystanders putting a chokehold around Garner’s neck, which caused his death.
The day before the rally the U.S. Justice Department had announced it would not bring civil rights charges against Pantaleo. This came as the five-year statute of limitations for any charges elapsed.
“If he doesn’t get fired, we’re going to do this every day,” Emerald Snipes-Garner, his daughter, told protesters.
“We have to get those officers fired. The ones who were on the scene that day who murdered my son,” Gwen Carr, Garner’s mother, told the rally. “So we’re calling on the [Mayor Bill] de Blasio administration: Fire those cops. You have the power. Assert your power.”
The order by Attorney General William Barr said the Justice Department couldn’t prove Pantaleo “willfully used excessive force,” the July 16 New York Times reported.
For five years, the Garner family has been speaking out, attending hearings and fighting in solidarity with families of other victims of police brutality. “My son’s death is not going to be in vain,” said Carr. “And I’ve got all of these supporters behind me.”
The cops claim Garner was approached because he was selling loose, untaxed cigarettes outside a beauty supply store, even though the police admit they were 300 feet away when they saw this. The cops approached Garner, and Pantaleo grabbed him around the neck. He and three other cops threw Garner to the ground. Keeping him in a chokehold, Pantaleo pushed Garner’s head to the sidewalk and put his knee on Garner’s back while other officers piled on and handcuffed him.
As he lay dying, Garner cried out, “I can’t breathe” 11 times. This has since become a rallying cry for protests against police brutality across the country.
The autopsy report said the primary causes of Garner’s death were “compression of neck, compression of chest and prone positioning during physical restraint by police.” The medical examiner classified it a “homicide.” Thousands took to the streets to protest when a Staten Island grand jury refused to indict Pantaleo in 2014.
NY police say cop may face discipline
A spokesman for Mayor de Blasio told the press the police commissioner is expected to decide by Aug. 31 whether Pantaleo will face any discipline.
The mayor has tried to deflect blame for the fact that he never made any effort to have Pantaleo fired. “In a million years, I could not have believed that the Justice Department would act the way it did,” he told the press after the decision. He said he “regretted” he didn’t move to begin disciplinary hearings.
“Pantaleo has got to go!” Hawa Bah, whose son Mohamed Bah was killed by New York cops in 2012, told the Militant. “They are doing the same thing they did with the cops who killed my son, it took years before I won any justice. At the very least they should fire him.”
“People have got to keep on marching!” she added.
Snipes-Garner announced another rally for July 30 “to remember Eric Garner and continue to keep his memory alive while still fighting for justice.” It’s at 6 p.m. at the Canaan Baptist Church in Harlem at 132 W. 116 St.
“I urge people to join the gathering,” Seth Galinsky, Socialist Workers Party candidate for New York City public advocate, said July 21. “It’s in the interest of all workers to unite and speak out against police violence. Join in demanding the city fire Pantaleo.”