On July 17, 2014, 43-year-old Eric Garner, lost his life while being pinned down by multiple officers and ultimately put in a chokehold by officer Daniel Pantaleo. Garner was stopped for allegedly selling untaxed cigarettes. Eleven times Garner begged for his life, warning officers that he was losing consciousness saying “I can’t breathe” but they continued to pin and choke him his body laid lifeless on the sidewalk.
Garner died a very public death in 2014, one his entire family would witness over and over again on news outlets and all over the internet via the bystanders’ videos of a Staten Island Police using excessive force to kill their loved one.
Since that moment the Garner family had to become activists in a grueling five-year fight for the justice of Eric’s unnecessary and tragic death. Their objective was to have the man who choked their father to death fired and criminally charged. Five years later, the Department of Justice ruled Garner’s death as a homicide but they will not charge Pantaleo or any of the officers in the killing of Eric Garner. Pantaleo was in fact also given a bonus of $120,000 in 2016. US attorney Richard Donoghue claimed that this ruling due to “insufficient evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt” that Pantaleo intentionally sought to cause Garner harm. Ironic since excessive force has been banned by the NYPD for the past two decades. And it goes without saying that even with the proliferation of the clear and chilling video of this man’s life being taken by police brutality the justice system grossly failed this family.
Knowing the notorious presence of structural racism in this country, this is also another moment of the DOJ grossly failing the Black Community. “It kills us in every way possible,” said Brittini Gray, an organizer who goes by Ree Belle. Pushed to the edge by a system that continuously overlooks them, the black population is shown once again that they will crush us, choke us, and kill us before we get justice.
There has been no acknowledgment of human dignity in the Black body from the US government and the DOJ has exposed another moment of them turning its back on the African Americans in this country. They didn’t hear Eric when he was begging for his life, they didn’t hear Erica Garner, who fought unsuccessfully to hold the police responsible for the death of her father and died of a heart attack from the stress of a constant uphill battle with the DOJ. At 27 years old, she faced the worst consequence of a life fighting as an activist, an untimely death. She fought to the death what black folks continue to fight today: the extremely biased and gross misconduct of law enforcement in our inherently broken justice system.
Before Erca died she had condemned Mayor Bill de Blasio’s efforts to hold the police accountable for her father’s death, saying in a pointed tweet that just because de Blasio has a black wife did not mean that he loved black lives. On Tuesday when members of Garner’s family, the Rev Al Sharpton, and several others met with federal prosecutors to learn of the decision, Eric Garner’s daughter Emerald Garner said “My sister died fighting for justice. You wont kill me.” She, like the rest of the black community and those who are allies of it, condemn DOJ’s decision that involved the retribution for the unnecessary and very public death of her father and continues to seek it avenge it.