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'We Can't Breathe',—Protesters Chant Eric Garner's Last Words

December 4, 2014 in Blogs

By Oliver Laughland, Jessica Glenza, Lauren Gambino, Steven W Thrasher, Paul Lewis, The Guardian

83 arrested in New York City in wake of grand jury refusal to indict police officer who killed unarmed black man by chokehold.

The last words of Eric Garner became the rallying cry for protests that swirled in New York after a grand jury refused to indict a police officer who placed the unarmed black man in a chokehold, reigniting racial tensions that have been simmering for months in the US.

“I can’t breathe,” protesters chanted, in mostly peaceful demonstrations that brought longstanding strains over race to the heart of America’s most populous city. Eighty-three arrests were made during the protests overnight, an NYPD spokesman confirmed to the Guardian. 

Earlier in the day, prosecutors announced the jury’s decision not to charge Daniel Pantaleo, one of the New York police department officers who had confronted Garner for selling loose cigarettes on Staten Island in July.

The protesters’ anger echoed the tensions in Ferguson, Missouri, the scene of violence and rioting after another grand jury declined to bring charges against a white police office in the killing of Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager suspected of robbing a convenience store. His death sparked hundreds of protests across the country and snapped into focus seething race issues.

Garner, who was black, died in July after being put in a chokehold by Pantaleo. Police had stopped the heavy-set father of six on suspicion of selling untaxed “loose” cigarettes. Garner had been arrested previously for selling untaxed cigarettes, marijuana possession and false impersonation.

A video shot by a bystander shows Garner resisting arrest as a plainclothes officer attempts to handcuff him. Backing away from the officer, Garner tells him: “This stops today,” which has become a rallying cry for protesters in New York. After a struggle during which Garner is wrestled to the ground by several officers, he gasps “I can’t breathe” until his 350lb body goes limp.

Barack Obama, criticised for his response to unrest in Ferguson, suggested the Garner case had reaffirmed his determination to ensure all Americans …read more


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