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Mother of Eric Garner: The Recurring Nightmare of My Son's Death

Photo of Ms. Gwen Carr, Eric Garner's mother.
Photo of Ms. Gwen Carr, Eric Garner's mother.
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April 18, 2015

Below are remarks made yesterday by Ms. Gwen Carr, the mother of Eric Garner, who was killed last year by a New York City police officer. Ms. Carr spoke at an event called "Human Rights in the USA," which was co-organized by The Roosevelt House Public Policy Institute at Hunter College and the US Human Rights Network in advance of a coming United Nations review of the United States' human rights record.

Good morning everyone,

Giving honor to God, who is the head of my life, allow me to introduce myself. My name is Gwen Carr. I am the mother of Eric Garner, as you all know, the victim the police put in the chokehold and ultimately caused his death. We've all seen the video. It plays in my head over and over again. I guess I'll be looking at it for the rest of my life.

I have to live this every day of my life. It's a recurring nightmare. In fact, it's worse than a nightmare, because I never wake up. It has changed my life forever, the death of my son. It has changed my life forever. Normally, I'm a very low-key person that goes about my daily routine, minding my business, but the death of my son has really enhanced my awareness of the cruel and inhumane things that some police officers do to us, towards us as people of color and Latinos. We suffer the greatest impact of this injustice. At the hands of the police, they violate our civil rights, our human rights, and our equal rights. And there's no accountability for their misconduct.

My son, Eric, he was being held down on the ground with his head pressed against the pavement. The police was blatantly choking him to death. As he begged for his life, he said, "I can't breathe." Eleven times. Eleven times he said, "I can't breathe." But the uncaring officer chose to take my son's life. And, not only that, five other officers jumped on him that day, as he lay dying on the hot pavement. And remember, my son was unarmed, he hadn't committed any crime. He was breaking up a fight. But in all, I just say he was targeted. The police, they are supposed to protect, but instead they disconnect.

My son — but you know I'm not only here to speak about the injustice and the wrongdoing against my son. I'm here to speak about the injustice throughout the world. We all suffer some sort of injustice, in some sort of some form, but I think that the people who are supposed to enforce the law, they should also be made to abide by those same laws. And remember, we have a video — full coverage video — showing the police misconduct, two medical examiners' report that ruled my son's death a homicide, and yet the grand jury failed to indict. This means they didn't see probable cause. More injustice. What kind of world are we living in?

If there's a crime, there should be accountability, whether you wear blue jeans, a blue business suit, or a blue uniform. I would like to see more legislation that protects the people. Everyone has heard my son's name Eric Garner, but Eric Garner, he was also a person. He was my first born. He had a wonderful personality. He was a husband, a father, and a friend.

He was educated, loved his family, adored his mother, loved by all that knew him. He had a special connection with the Christmas season. He would go above and beyond to help someone if he thought they were his friend or just anyone on the street if he saw they needed help. And his death has left an enormous void in my life. And my heart has been ripped out. Literally. With this being said, I will walk, I will rally, and I will speak out until my voice is heard. I know all police aren't bad, but there are some very vicious officers out there. They give the rest a bad name. Proper training will work for those out there to do their job, but the only thing that is going to help with the officers that have their own agenda is their superiors standing up for what's right and holding those officers accountable. They know what's going on in their precinct. You know your officers.

And I'm here today because of police misconduct that caused the death of my loved one. There are so many others – mothers, wives, sisters, brothers, cousins who have all suffered also. And it's not fair. We all share this pain.

Bottom line: We need better policing and lawmakers who will be fair. Make a law that applies to everyone. We voted for them, and what do they give us in return? The goal is to get laws passed that will protect us, respect us against this ill treatment. It has got to stop. The abuse is in all races, but we as a people feel the greatest impact. We need executive order now.

You know I put a piece together. I said, what does brutality mean to me? And I just said, spell it out. So I just took the word brutality, and I put a meaning that came from within me. And it's like this:

B, bestowing hurt and harm on people totally dismissing them as a human being;
R, ruthless treatment. Racist and cruel insults;
U, uncivilized and vicious attack on already helpless individuals;
T, total disregard for one's human rights, civil rights, and equal rights;
A, aggressive and aggravated use of force unnecessarily;
L, life threatening and needless beatings which shows the depraved mentality;
I, inhuman, vulgar, and severe attacks that demoralize us as a people;
T, torture just for the thrill of seeing people squirm;
Y, your prime example of crazed individuals that supposed to protect and instead they disconnect.

And you know, this is happening all over. In New York, in Ferguson, in South Carolina, Indiana, Louisiana, you name it. Every day we see a new case coming up, and we have to make sure that these people stand accountable for their actions. We can't keep letting this go on because today it's me, tomorrow it may be you. And we don't want another head count.

So I say to you today ladies and gentlemen, thank you for having me and God bless you.

Watch remarks by Gwen Carr, mother of Eric Garner at 57:40 to 1:08:00:


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