Eric Garner, 43 year old man who was arrested for allegedly selling loose cigarettes in New York and died in police custody while restrained in the chokehold, was laid to rest Wednesday night.
The ceremony, which took place at a Brooklyn church, was filled with family and community members who came to not only mourn the passing of a beloved father, husband and friend, but also to bring attention to police brutality and racial injustice that minorities are faced with everyday.
Eight-year NYPD veteran, officer Daniel Pantaleo and an officer who has been with the force for four years were both removed from the street after the Garner’s death on Thursday July 17.
According to federal court records, in the past two years, Pantaleo has been sued three times by men who say he acted unlawfully and whose arrest, they feel, where unlawfully motivated.
In efforts to uphold due process, NY Civilian Complaint Review Board will review more over 1,000 chokehold complaints compiled within the past five years, against offers to find why the “forbidden practice” is continuously utilized during arrests.
The Reverend Al Sharpton, who spoke at the funeral, gave the family and community words of comfort and wisdom.
“Fight back community, don’t back down. We got to win. We don’t choke people, we’re redeemers of this city,” said Sharpton.
Also in attendance at the funeral, was Kadiatou Diallo, the widow of Amadou Diallo, who was shot to death in 1999 by police, who mistook his wallet for a gun.
“It brings back terrible memories,” Diallo told the Daily News on Wednesday. “After all these cases and all these years, nothing seems to change.”
Despite what police are doing in order to investigate Garner’s death, community members of all races and ages have grown weary of police brutality and are ready for change.
“I’m so tired of hearing about people killing Blacks and getting away with it,” says Ollie May Little 84 year-old retired state worker and community leader. “When I was a child, you would hear about these things, it’s a shame that after all this time, you young people are still dealing with this.”
According to data from the NY controller’s office, police misconduct, injury and civil rights suits make up over a third of all claims against the city.
“I know corner stores in the city that sell loose cigarettes,” says Shana’e Cole, 25 year old community member and social worker. “Does that mean that every person who sells loosies should be subject to death? This is ridiculous.”
Over the years, there have been many cases, nation-wide where it seems that injustice was served based on racial discrimination. Willie Hood, Retired Correction officer feels that racial discrimination in the legal system is due to the overwhelming amount of Blacks who are miss educated on the legal system, and that have no protection, or support in their communities.
“I’ve seen some cases where, if a boy is in legal trouble, the community will help find and pay a good lawyer,” says Hood, “ A lot of times, if a Black boy is in trouble, he is dealing with it all on his own… then, people want to comment after the fact, after the injustice is already done.”
Community members have grown weary of police injustice, “police are supposed to protect, not endanger, and that for all members of the community, and that includes the Black ones.” says Little.
Even though racial discrimination is a well known issue in the legal system, there are still ways urban communities can unite, in order to increase knowledge about their rights in the legal system, and how to fight racial injustices when they occur. Below are three tips to a more united community:
1. Form a strong community forum
This forum should be comprised of both community leaders and people who want to learn about their rights in the legal system. The forum should include community leaders who currently, or have worked in the legal system in the past.
2. Protect yourself
Because there was footage of Garner’s arrest, there’s proof that the officers did act unlawfully. You can protect yourself against racial injustice by having a camera in your car, or using your smart phone to record police interaction.
3. Get involved with your legal system
The best way to make sure your community politicians and police officers are working to protect, and not endanger is to get involved in the legal system. According to census.gov, the number of Black voters has increased for presidential elections, but the Black vote is still lagging when it comes to state and city elections. Get involves with your politicians and learn who is representing your community and get involved with the process.
These three tips to a more united community may not be easy to achieve, but may grow easier over time, and save a life.
“We need to be proactive about what happens in our community,” says Cole, “Change will not come overnight, but if show unity; it will be harder to break us.”