Six Year Anniversary of Eric Garner Happening Amid George Floyd Aftermath

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[Eric Garner]
Inside Edition: "Pantaleo did not release his grip on Garner’s neck, despite 43-year-old Garner telling officers repeatedly he couldn’t breathe. Garner was later pronounced dead at a hospital."
Photo: YouTube

Today's sixth year anniversary of the chokehold murder of Eric Garner is happening amid the aftermath of the police murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor.

The killing of George Floyd evoked a sense of déjà vu for many, but no one more than Gwen Carr. The mother of three had been here before: hearing of the death of a Black man whose last words included the plea, “I can’t breathe.”

Floyd uttered those three words with a police officer’s knee pressed into his neck on May 25. But six years ago, those were the words Carr’s own son, Eric Garner, yelled as an NYPD cop held him in a chokehold on a Staten Island sidewalk on July 17, 2014.

Both men’s deaths sparked national protests and outrage. And as she did in the wake of her own child’s killing, Carr knew she needed to act. Carr, who still lives on Staten Island, flew to Minnesota to attend Floyd’s funeral and meet his family.

“I had this feeling like, ‘no, this is not happening again...’ this eerie feeling,” Carr told Inside Edition Digital. “I felt it personal to go and visit with the family. I spoke with the family to tell them I give them my deepest sympathy. I said, ‘I empathize with you, because I know what you're feeling, because I know what I felt on that day.’”

Carr’s words came as she sat on a park bench on Staten Island and looked toward the Verrazzano Bridge. Her face was covered in a mask that read “I can’t breathe.” Always keeping her son’s last words, which have become a rallying cry for the Black Lives Matter movement, close by and visible to all the world.

Carr agreed to an interview despite the coronavirus pandemic and the fact that she was preparing for her aunt’s funeral that same week. She saw it as an opportunity to continue to advocate for Garner, something she has been doing since his death.

On July 17, 2014, Garner was allegedly selling loose, untaxed cigarettes in Staten Island when NYPD officers attempted to arrest him. In a video that has been watched worldwide, an officer, Daniel Pantaleo, put Garner in a chokehold as he dragged him onto the ground. Pantaleo did not release his grip on Garner’s neck, despite 43-year-old Garner telling officers repeatedly he couldn’t breathe. Garner was later pronounced dead at a hospital.

In Dec. 2014, a grand jury ruled not to indict Pantaleo for using the chokehold, despite the coroner’s ruling that Garner’s death was a homicide. In 2019, a day before what was the fifth anniversary of Garner’s death, federal prosecutors announced they wouldn’t bring charges against Pantaleo, either. Pantaleo was fired in August 2019 after a long-awaited internal departmental trial that found he violated NYPD’s ban on using chokeholds.

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