I don’t know how many times I’ve written about Eric Garner since he was murdered almost exactly five years ago. On July 17, 2014, Eric Garner was killed when NYPD officer Daniel Pantaleo placed him in an illegal chokehold and suffocated him. Today, U.S. Attorney Richard Donoghue announced that the Department of Justice would not pursue federal charges against Pantaleo– a decision made by Attorney General William Barr himself. With this move, Barr sided with a New York Justice Department team instead of the Civil Rights Division in Washington D.C. as he decided that the video evidence of Pantaleo viciously attacking and choking Eric wasn’t enough proof for an indictment. CNN’s report stated that “Under disagreement was whether or not the evidence in the case could meet the high legal standard that Pantaleo, beyond a reasonable doubt, acted willfully.” Because of Barr’s refusal to hold Pantaleo accountable, the latter will not face any criminal charges for his sole role in murdering Eric Garner. To this day, Pantaleo remains a free man and on NYPD’s payroll. So far, despite Pantaleo suffocating Eric and multiple other NYPD officers standing idly and watching the execution, the only person who has faced criminal charges for the event is Eric’s friend Ramsey Orta who filmed the violence (who has been incarcerated and held in solitary confinement since the video went viral). New York Mayor Bill de Blasio also refused to fire Pantaleo or support a bill that would ban cops from using choke holds on people, and now he’s running as a Democratic candidate for President.
Eric Garner repeated the phrase “I can’t breathe” 11 times as his life was sucked from his body. Pantaleo wrapped his arms around Eric’s throat and shoved his body to the ground while other cops stepped in to hold him down. All because they accused Eric of selling loose cigarettes outside of a corner store in his neighborhood. All because he was a Black man existing in America. After he was killed, Eric’s daughter Erica spent years of her adult life protesting in her father’s honor. She tried to hold de Blasio and every other authority figure accountable for their role in her father’s death. She became a public figure alongside her grandma Gwen Carr (Eric’s mother) who both used their pain to fight for the man they loved. But Erica’s suffering turned into numerous heart attacks and at the young age of 27, she died of a broken heart. All over cigarettes. Even though the grand jury and the Department of Justice that both declined to indict Pantaleo had clear-as-day video evidence documenting Eric being violently murdered, the Garner family still lost two of their beloved family members, and every cop and public official who participated in the murder are allowed to live their lives and exist in the world. Seeing the criminal legal system work as it was always meant to and watching Black men and women be systematically murdered and brutalized by cops always makes me wonder how anyone could still “trust the system” and “back the boys in blue.” The system was created for the wealthy, the powerful, and the white (for best results, intertwine all three). This is why Justine Damond (a white woman) was quickly brought justice after being shot and killed by a cop (a Somali-American man), but Eric Garner (a Black man) will never see justice after being killed by Pantaleo (a white man). Every injustice that occurs in society hurts not only the victim, but also their family and everyone they loved. Eric Garner was a man who was extremely beloved by his family and his community. Now, no one who loved him will ever be the same.