It wasn’t a full week ago that Eric Garner was standing on a Staten Island street corer, seemingly minding his business when NYPD officers put him in a chokehold. Reports say the 43-year-old father of six, was selling illegal cigarettes although Garner himself is heard saying that he was trying to break up a fight, and accused the police of harassing him. In the next minute he’s being restrained by officers and pleading for air. An hour later, he was dead.
On Wednesday (July 23) hundreds gathered at Brooklyn’s Bethel Baptist Church for Garner’s funeral. The Rev. Al Sharpton was among the speakers, and encouraged the community to keep fighting for justice. “This is an occasion when we should not be here,” he told the crowd of mourners. “We’re in a city where you can’t choke us. Go to the video tape. What are you going to say now? You can’t stop us on this one… God will take care of us now. Fight back community. Don’t back down. We got to win. We don’t choke people. We’re redeemers of this city.”
Daniel Pantaleo, the officer seen on video putting Garner in the chokehold banned by the department, has been demoted to desk duty. In seven years on the force, the 29-year-old racked up seven complaints, two of which were for excessive force. Two years ago, the city paid $30,000 to settle a civil rights lawsuits against Pantaleo for wrongfully accusing two people of drug possession.
Another NYPD cop, Justin Damico, was remanded to desk duty while the Garner investigation continues, and four EMTS who responded to the scene have been suspended without pay.
Meanwhile, for Garner’s family and friends, his death stands as another example of how some say police behave in the area. “The police need to pay,” said friend Earl Simms, who last saw Garner the day before he died. If cops don’t pay this will keep happening.”
Sharpton and Garner’s family members had a closed-door meeting with federal prosecutors sometime Friday.
New York Mayor Bill de Blasio has promised a full investigation into Garner’s death.
See photos from the funeral below.