One year ago Friday — it's hard, frankly, to believe it happened that long ago — Staten Island resident Eric Garner died after being put in a chokehold by an NYPD officer, Daniel Pantaleo, during an attempted arrest for selling untaxed cigarettes. Like so many stories of unarmed black Americans losing their lives in encounters with law enforcement, it provoked an outpouring of sadness, outrage, and calls for justice. And now, all these months later, he's being remembered; here are 9 powerful tributes to Eric Garner.
Make no mistake, there's still a lot of bitterness surrounding what happened after Garner's death. Pantaleo, the officer who placed him in the chokehold, was not indicted by a grand jury in spite of a publicly available video of the incident, a decision which set off massive protests throughout New York City and in other cities around the country. It was, and remains, one of the keystone incidents synonymous with the Black Lives Matter movement; the conditions those activists are demanding attention to are far from improved.
But regardless, it's important to mark the passage of time, to reinvigorate the call to action, and to pay some respects and remembrance now and then. Here's how people have been paying tribute to Garner — were he still alive, he'd have been 44 years old.
1. Eric Garner's Daughter Releases Doves
Garner's young daughter Legacy marked the date of her father's death by releasing a dove, typically viewed as an emblem of peace. There have also been protesters, demonstrators, and mourners gathering to mark the occasion.
2. Carrying The Banner
As you'd expect, protesters have been active today, as well — this group carried their banners decrying police brutality around Staten Island, sending an unambiguous message.
3. "It Stops Now"
Those were the words spoken by Eric Garner moments before he was choked, as he pleaded with the NYPD officers to leave him alone.
4. I Can't Breathe
These three words became a central rallying cry for the Black Lives Matter movement, as Garner gasped them minutes before his death.
5. Speaking Out To Power
These protesters descended on the borough hall of Staten Island on Friday, many of them wearing shirts which said "Eric Garner Can't Vote, But We Can."
6. A Small Needful Fact
This poem by Ross Gay wasn't actually timed to the anniversary of Garner's death, but was released earlier this year. Nonetheless, its quiet, naked power is entirely appropriate right now.
7. Remembering Happier Times
Sometimes, paying tribute can be as simple as reminding people of the happier times in a victim's life — after all, part of the tragedy is that when people hear the name Eric Garner now, one of the first things to come to mind is that awful video.
8. Chronicling The Struggle
Hats off to Al Jazeera's mobile-centric AJ+, which produced this informative, moving update on Eric Garner's family, one year on from his death.
9. Public Radio Tackles Race
Last, but not at all least, there's this offering below from WNYC public radio. They set up a "talk box," in the style of a public pay phone, on Staten Island. It allowed average people to pick up the receiver and voice their thoughts about Garner, race, and policing.
Perhaps the most moving moment actually had nothing to do with Garner, however — it's the little girl at the very beginning of the video. She's so young. In any sensible, just world, far too young to be worrying that people dislike her for the color of her skin, and yet she's already heartbreakingly aware. Make no mistake, we've got a long ways to go.