A stretch of the Staten Island street where Eric Garner died after a police chokehold was renamed Saturday in honor of the man whose cries of “I can’t breathe” spawned the national “Black Lives Matter” movement.
The victim’s mother Gwen Carr, joined by family, friends and elected officials, watched as the “Eric Garner Way” sign was unveiled one day before the eighth anniversary of his July 17, 2014 death during an arrest for selling loose cigarettes outside 202 Bay St.
“I am proud of how many people showed up,” said the 73-year-old Carr. “It gives me great pleasure how many people remember him eight years later.”
While Officer Daniel Pantaleo ultimately lost his job after applying the hold, no one ever faced criminal charges in the videotaped arrest. Garner family members said the lack of accountability still rankled and were still agitating for prosecution.
“The police officers have to be accounted for,” said cousin Benjamin Garner. “He was killed for no reason. We still want justice. Everyone has to remember his name.”
The crowd cheered when Garner’s sister Ellisha Flagg asked, “Can my family make some noise?” Among those joining the group were Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg and former City Councilman Rory Lancman.
“The street sign is a physical remembrance,” said Lancman, who sponsored city legislation barring police chokeholds. “It will be here forever, so what happened to him does not keep happening.”
Several other mothers whose children died during police interactions showed up from Maryland, Utah and Georgia in support of Carr, gathering opposite the beauty supply business where Garner was taken into custody on the sidewalk.
Garner, 43, died after NYPD Officer Pantaleo applied the chokehold during his arrest. The cellphone video of the incident, which went viral, captured Garner declaring “I can’t breathe” at least 11 times.
In addition to the lack of any criminal conviction, a judicial inquiry conducted last year only further frustrated Carr when the probe came to a close with no charges brought.
His son Eric Jr. said the street naming was part of his father’s legacy.
“It brings notice to the injustices our people face,” said the namesake son. “It was because of Eric Garner that brought justice to George Floyd. He was my best friend.”
Garner’s last-gasp statement became a national call to arms for African-Americans as his the video spread nationwide. A Staten Island grand jury declined to indict Pantaleo, who was fired from his job as the fifth anniversary of Garner’s death approached.
“A real good man, an outgoing person, and a family man,” said his cousin Alisha Garner. “His death was a big, senseless tragedy. His cousins get a sense of pride when they see his name. They realize that society is not letting it go.”