Eric Garner Protest

Spencer Platt/Getty Images

‘I Can’t Breathe’: Protesters Mark 5 Years Since Eric Garner’s Death

July 17, 2019 - 6:25 pm

NEW YORK (WCBS 880) — Hundreds of protesters took to Foley Square Wednesday to mark five years since the death of Eric Garner during an arrest on Staten Island.

Chants of “I can’t breathe” and “no justice, no peace” filled the air as demonstrators gathered in front of a “Justice for Eric Garner” banner, a day after federal prosecutors announced they would not bring civil rights charges against NYPD Officer Daniel Pantaleo, who is accused of using a chokehold on the 43-year-old Garner.

Those who spoke, according to WCBS 880’s Mike Smeltz, were full of passion and anger.

“Fire all officers involved in the killing of Eric Garner,” one woman demanded of the NYPD.

Meanwhile, Garner's mother, Gwen Carr, delivered her demand to Mayor Bill de Blasio.

“We’re calling on the de Blasio administration – fire those cops,” she said.

Cell phone video of Garner’s 2014 arrest on a Staten Island street for selling untaxed, loose cigarettes shocked the city and his final words, “I can’t breathe,” became a rallying cry for the Black Lives Matter movement.

A medical examiner ruled Garner's death was a homicide, but a Staten Island grand jury declined to indict any of the officers involved.

Pantaleo was tried in the spring by the Civilian Complaint Review Board, an NYPD oversight agency, who argued he recklessly used a chokehold on Garner. The judge in the case has not yet issued a verdict. 

The Garner family and supporters want NYPD Commissioner James O'Neill to fire Pantaleo, regardless of the outcome of a departmental trial. He has remained on desk duty since the 2014 incident.

"We're asking the commissioner to make the right decision that Officer Pantaleo and all the officers who were involved in my son's death that day need to be off the force," Garner's mother, Gwen Carr, said. "The streets of New York City are not safe with them walking around."