Labor, civil rights, and community groups in New York City sponsored a rally for justice for Eric Garner and other young African Americans who have died in police custody.
The rally took place at the US District Courthouse in Brooklyn on July 18, a day after the anniversary of Garner’s death.
Speakers at the rally demanded that the US Justice Department conduct a full investigation into Garner’s death.
Garner died while in police custody after being detained by officers who suspected that he was selling untaxed cigarettes.
A coroner’s report on Garner’s death attributed the death to compression on the neck, which is consistent with a chokehold.
Witnesses said that a police officer had Garner in a chokehold and that Garner gasped, “I can’t breathe” several times before losing consciousness.
After Garner lost consciousness, no attempt was made to administer CPR.
The labor groups that co-sponsored the Justice for Eric Garner rally with their community partners were 1199 SEIU United Healthcare Workers East, SEIU Local 32BJ, Transport Workers Union Local 100, the Working Families Party, and the New York State Nurses Association.
“It’s a beautiful thing to see all kinds of people here – every color, race creed and nationality standing up to say that Black Lives Matter,” said Tasha Fowler, an 1199SEIU member who works at Brooklyn’s Brookdale Hospital. “But it has been one year and that cop hasn’t been indicted. He’s on desk duty. He’s still getting paid. That’s unacceptable.”
Among the union members at the rally was a contingent of nurses wearing red and holding signs that read, “Justice and Civil Rights for All.”
They belong to the New York State Nurses Association (NYSNA), which has created an internal Committee for Social Justice and Civil Rights.
A post on NYSNA’s Facebook page urged other members of the organization to get involved in the fight for equality beyond the workplace.
“Yesterday, nurses joined with labor, community, civil rights, and faith allies to commemorate Eric Garner’s tragic death and to rally for human rights and justice for all,” reads the post. “To members who feel compelled to care beyond your workplace, consider joining NYSNA’s new Committee for Social Justice and Civil Rights.”
NYSNA’s Executive Board created the social justice committee shortly after the massacre of nine African Americans in Charleston, South Carolina by a white racist.
“We stand with all Americans for whom racism is an abhorrent act of bigotry and will fight against it in all forms,” reads the board’s resolution creating the committee.
The resolution goes on to say NYSNA was built on the idea that health care is an equal right for all and that the union’s “commitment to equality extends beyond the bedside– to all aspects of life in the communities for whom the conditions of inequality—social and economic — exist. ”
The nurses at the rally and other attendees heard from Gwen Carr, Garner’s mother.
She stood on the podium shoulder to shoulder with the mothers of other young African American men who died in police custody.
When she spoke, she deplored the fact that there were so many women like her whose sons have died in police custody.
She compared the group of mothers who share this common tragedy to a club.
This club,” she told the audience. “Should have “no more members.”