Civil rights leaders joined mourning family and friends on Wednesday at funeral services for Eric Garner, the 43-year-old father who died after he was placed in a chokehold by New York police during an arrest.
In the Brooklyn church where the funeral was held, powerful sermons were delivered, songs of praise rang out, and one civil rights leader made a call to action.
According to the New York Daily News, Garner’s teenage daughter was in tears as she sang a soulful rendition of Mariah Carey’s “Hero” to her father as he lay in his casket, surrounded by floral arrangements.
Following Garner’s daughter, his 90-year-old aunt performed an emotionally charged gospel song.
“I’m going to miss him so much,” said Esaw Garner, the victim’s wife, as she broke into tears. “He cared for everybody. He didn’t deserve this.”
She added tearfully, “He was supposed to be my rock, but now he is gone. He will never answer my call.”
Gwen Carr, Eric Garner’s mother, held Esaw, who was so emotionally distressed she was unable to make it to the altar on her own and had to be assisted by other friends and family members in attendance.
Among those who attended the funeral was Kadiatou Diallo, mother of Amadou Diallo, who was fatally shot nearly 20 times by police in the Bronx in 1999, after officers mistook his wallet for a gun.
Unfortunately, Diallo knew the suffering the Garner family was experiencing all too well, and she said it was painful to acknowledge that not enough has changed to put an end to the deaths of Black men at the hands of police officers.
“It’s just so sad,” she told the Daily News. “It brings back terrible memories. After all these cases and all these years, nothing seems to change. It should never have happened, it should have been prevented.”
Diallo and Rev. Al Sharpton issued a call to action, reminding mourners that the fight for justice is far from over.
“I’m calling on the new administration, Mayor de Blasio and [Police] Commissioner [Bill] Bratton, to bring about changes,” Diallo said.
Sharpton said that the cellphone footage of Garner’s death may be a weapon in the fight for justice.
“This is how we get action,” he said from the pulpit. “We can’t live in a city where they can choke us out and it’s not a big thing. You don’t need retraining, you don’t need sensitizing.”
Sharpton’s remarks were a response to Bratton’s decision to retrain his officers after the story of the chokehold death unfolded.
“There is a difference this time, this time there’s a video,” he said. “You can’t tell no lies this time.”
It has been a week since Garner died after an officer put him in a chokehold, a move prohibited by the NYPD.
Cellphone video shows Garner telling officers that he couldn’t breathe while they continued to push him to the ground.
A medical examiner has not announced an official cause of death, but authorities insist Garner had a heart attack and was not killed by the forbidden tactic.
A preliminary investigation found no clear signs of asphyxiation.