After a week of actions, Black Lives Matter activists in New York City are set to march today to commemorate Eric Garner, the Staten Island man who was killed by police last year on July 17. His death — along with that of Mike Brown in Ferguson, Missouri and the ensuing non-indictments of the police officers responsible in both incidents — sparked months of nationwide protests and the birth of the Black Lives Matter movement.
Garner’s family recently accepted a $5.9 million settlement from the city, which Comptroller Scott Stringer noted was not an admission of liability. For Garner’s family though, the settlement is far from the end of the fight.
“Don’t congratulate us,” Gwen Carr, Garner’s mother, told CNN. “This is not a victory. The victory will come when we get justice.”
The Garner family and Rev. Al Sharpton have called for a rally on July 18 in front of the federal courthouse in Brooklyn. The family plans on continuing to call for federal charges in the case.
“This does not represent justice,” Erica Snipes, Garner’s daughter, told USA Today. “We are calling on the Department of Justice and [Attorney General] Loretta Lynch to deliver justice for my father.”
Meanwhile, on Monday, as the settlement was being announced, Snipes joined dozens of protesters in Staten Island as they marched from the Staten Island ferry to the spot where Garner was choked to death by NYPD Officer Daniel Pantaleo.
The march was one of NYC Shut It Down’s weekly #PeoplesMonday protests, during which the activist group highlights the case of a different victim of police brutality.
“We held the Peoples Monday that was dedicated to Eric Garner in Staten Island for several reasons, said NYC Shut It Down member MJ Williams. “It is where Eric Garner lived, where he was constantly harassed by the police, and where the police killed him. The action kicked off a full week of commemorations with energy and love.”
She went on to explain that Staten Island is where Garner’s family and community are located, as well as “the district represented by former-DA-now-Congressional-Representative Daniel Donovan, who oversaw the grand jury that failed to indict Eric Garner’s killer.”
The march was led by Snipes and also attended by members of Millions March NYC and the Peoples Power Assemblies. The protesters made their way from the ferry to the front of the Richmond County Supreme Court where they took the streets, stopped traffic and attracted the attention of local police. The protesters then continued marching through the streets, passing the NYPD’s 120th precinct building — where Pantaleo worked — before making their way through the St. George neighborhood. Members of the community joined in the march at various points until protesters reached the front of Bay Beauty Supply, the spot where Garner was killed. Snipes and Hertencia Peterson, the aunt of Akai Gurley, a Brooklyn man who was killed by the NYPD last year, spoke to the crowd about the need for justice in these cases of police brutality.
After that march, NYC Shut It Down staged multiple surprise banner drops at two different locations to remind people that one year had passed without any legal consequences for Garner’s killer or changes to the policies that led to Garner’s death. On July 14, members of the group unfurled two banners that read “#ItStopsToday” and “I Can’t Breathe” inside Grand Central Terminal, while chanting Garner’s name and “Black Lives Matter.” The former were his last words and became rallying cries during protests. They were chanted yet again on July 16, while NYC Shut It Down dropped another “I Can’t Breathe” banner, this time from the High Line public park.
“On the days when no mass actions were scheduled, we planned strategic interventions in public spaces as reminders that Eric Garner and his family have still not seen justice, and that the conditions and policies that led to Eric Garner’s death, including broken windows policing, have not been addressed,” Williams said.
NYC Shut It Down, along with various other groups, have also organized a march for July 17, intended to commemorate Garner’s death exactly one year ago.
“Millions March NYC, NYC Shut it Down, People’s Power Assemblies and Black Lives Matter NYC are joining forces to demand justice for Eric Garner on the one-year anniversary of his death,” Williams said. “The purpose for why we come together and march is to raise awareness, show our unity against oppression, and to create a forum in which people are free to utilize their voices and their bodies to express their dissent.”
So far, over 1,500 people have RSVP-ed on the march’s Facebook event page, and the activists have promised that the actions will continue until they get justice for Garner and his family.
“The family will continue to seek justice,” said NYC Shut It Down member Q.B. “Even though the city has reached a settlement, the city will not take ‘liability’ for Eric Garner’s death. This means we are not done.”