Families of police brutality victims on banding together, finding justice

Randi Richardson

The families of George Floyd, Jacob Blake and Eric Garner discussed how “there’s two systems of justice” in their first joint interview, which aired Thursday on NBC's "Dateline."

The interviews were conducted long before rioters occupied the Capitol on Wednesday, but the families emphasized three main points that remain relevant in light of the events in Washington this week.

First, the double standard they feel regarding how law enforcement interacts with people based on their race. “Poor judgment for a white kid in America gets you a slap on the wrist while poor judgment for an African American kid can get them killed,” Letetra Widman, Blake’s sister, said.

Second, unity and community is how these families began healing as Gwen Garner, Eric Garner’s mother, called Floyd’s siblings Philonise, Bridgette and Rodney after Floyd died. They regularly contact her for advice, Philonise said.

Lastly, questions regarding what happens after viral videos lose steam or echoes of “I can’t breathe” fade, and what pushes these families to keep applying pressure.

The "Dateline" episode also featured the civil rights attorney Ben Crump, who is representing the Floyd and Blake families, and Jim Palmer, executive director of the Wisconsin Professional Police Association.

Floyd died last May after being kneed by a Minneapolis police officer, Derek Chauvin, who has since been fired and charged with murder. Blake was fleeing police in Kenosha, Wisconsin, in August when Officer Rusten Sheskey shot him in the back, leaving Blake paralyzed from the waist down; Sheskey was not charged. And Garner died in 2014 after a New York City police officer put him in a chokehold. The officer, Daniel Pantaleo, was not charged but was later fired.

“We don’t get justice,” Jacob's father, Jacob Blake Sr., said. “We get just us.”

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