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"I Can't Breathe": Eric Garner died five years ago

Source: picture alliance / Getty

Ican’t breathe. Those were the last words Eric Garner spoke before being choked to death by an NYPD officer. The incident happened on camera, which provided clear proof of the NYPD’s abuse of power and use of police brutality.

The nation erupted in protests as another Black life was taken at the hands of officers sworn to protect citizens. Daniel Pantaleo was the officer responsible for taking Eric Garner’s life, and six years after the fact, it has been decided that he will not face criminal charges.

Needless to say, Black people nationwide are unsurprised by the news, which speaks to an even larger degree of trauma we deal with. There’s a very specific darkness that looms over our heads knowing that our lives don’t hold much worth in the eyes of the government we pay taxes to.

Let’s put this all in perspective. Eric Garner is dead at the hands of a police officer who killed him on camera. Ramsey Orta, who filmed the incident has been behind bars since 2016 after being targeted by police for exposing their brutality. Eric’s daughter, Erica, turned to a life of activism after her father’s death, only to unfortunately pass away from a heart attack while still in her early twenties. The only person who is alive and free is Daniel Pantaleo, and he’s the one who caused all of this pain in the first place.

According to United States Attorney Richard P. Donoghue, the Justice department could not prove Officer Pantaleo willfully used excessive force to violate Mr. Garner’s rights as required under the law. It’s funny how the law seems to work in favor of officers rather than the citizens that pay for their salaries.

While this conclusion is a bit depressing, we must remember that Eric Garner did not die in vain. His unfortunate death, along with a long list of others, has sprung a generation of young Black Americans into a sense of awareness regarding our stat of existence in this country, that we may not have had otherwise.

Awareness is a catalyst for change, because without awareness you don’t even know something is wrong. We’ll continue to protest, remain politically involved, and use our vote where it counts s that we can prevent these injustices from continuing to happen.