(The Guardian) One year and a day after Eric Garner died, a small group of women stood on a podium outside a federal courthouse in New York City. They were there to call on federal prosecutors to indict the police officer who put Garner into a fatal chokehold, during an arrest for allegedly selling loose cigarettes.
One of the women was Garner’s mother. As she took her spot before hundreds of people in Brooklyn, Gwen Carr thanked her audience for their unwavering support.
“Without you, we couldn’t do this alone,” she said. “We need your support, because we know next time it could be you or your son. And we want no more members.”
Carr lead a brief chant: “Let’s say that: ‘No more members’.”
The “club” Carr was referring to consists of black mothers whose sons have been taken from them. Joining her on stage were Wanda Johnson, mother of Oscar Grant; Constance Malcolm, mother of Ramarley Graham; Leslie McSpadden, mother of Michael Brown; and Sybrina Fulton, mother of Trayvon Martin.
Parents in the crowd nodded in agreement, even as two little girls played on the ground near makeshift coffins. The caskets were symbolic, displayed to honor those who have died at the hands of police over the years.
McSpadden, whom the other mothers will join in three weeks’ time to mark one year since her son was shot dead in Ferguson, Missouri, by a white police officer who was not indicted, declined to speak to the crowd. Other mothers took turns speaking to those gathered.
“We can’t fight this battle alone,” said Fulton. “We need you. Don’t wait until something happens to your child.
As the crowd nodded, some murmuring in agreement, she added: “You didn’t hear me the first time: don’t wait until something happens to your child. We cannot afford to lose our children.”
The atmosphere was much different from that around the march that snaked through the streets of Manhattan the night before. As more than a dozen protesters were arrested, the feeling among the crowd that chanted Garner’s name on Friday night was more one of frustration than hope.
By late Saturday afternoon, the New York police department still could not confirm the official number of arrests made.
On Saturday, looking over the crowd in Brooklyn, Esaw Garner, Eric Garner’s widow, repeated her late husband dying words: “I can’t breathe.”
After a brief pause, she continued: “Y’all keep me empowered. I get nervous sometimes but as soon [as] I see you guys’ faces I know that you are here to support me. I get really, really strong.”
She described her husband, who was known in the community as Big E, as a good husband who never abandoned her and always took care of her and their children.
“I will not stop loving him and I will not stop fighting for him,” she said.
The main purpose of Saturday’s rally was to call for the federal indictment of the officers involved in the death of Garner and Ramarley Graham, who was shot dead three and a half years ago in his home.
“I don’t understand why the Department of Justice won’t move swiftly and won’t stop dragging their feet,” said Malcolm, Graham’s mother.
In remarks directed at the US attorney for the southern district of New York, she said: “Preet Bharara, I am telling you, you need to move on this case right now. It’s been three and a half years. We are tired of waiting. Ramarley deserves justice. I deserve answers.”
The two families recently settled their cases with the city. Graham’s family settled for $3.9m in January; Garner’s settled this week for $5.9m.
“Money never was justice,” said the Rev Al Sharpton, who also addressed the rally, adding that the protest movement now known across the world as Black Lives Matter would not rest until federal charges were brought.
“There is a reason why we are here in this spot,” Bertha Lewis, the founder of a nonprofit called the Black Institute, told the crowd as she pointed to her right. “Look over there.
“That’s the federal courthouse. We are here to send a message that says enough is enough. Today is time for justice. It is justice time.
“You know, I love [US attorney general] Loretta Lynch, but here is my message to you, sister Lynch: if you can indict Fifa, you can bring indictments in the Eric Garner case.”