For the second Saturday in a row last week Eric Garner?s relatives were at the National Action Network, primarily to thank the organization for paying for his funeral and to talk about the nature of a man who died after being placed in a chokehold by a police officer on July 17.
?My husband was a quiet man,? said Esaw Garner, Eric?s wife.? ?But he?s making a lot of noise now.?
And that noise is ricocheting across the nation as Garner?s case tops a number of similar incidents in which law enforcement agencies are grappling with how to police its police force.
The NYPD?s encounter with Garner, 43, and the father of six children, is by far the most egregious at the moment since it led to his death, and no final determination has come from the coroner?s about what caused it.
?They harassed us whenever we went shopping,? Mrs. Garner continued.? ?He would ask them ?Why are you bothering me?? but that didn?t stop them.?
Nor did they stop on that fatal day on Staten Island when a gaggle of cops, uniformed and undercover, sought to arrest him for selling loose cigarettes that they deemed illegal, eventually placing him in a chokehold that has been illegal for more than twenty years.
?He was a good son,? said Garner?s mother Gwen Carr.? ?And at the end of the day we want justice.?
Justice was a word that was repeated again and again, including from Garner?s sister, Emerald.? ?He worked very hard to take care of his family,? she said.? ?It?s not easy for us but things have been made easier by all the support we?ve received.?
Among those in attendance was Nicole Paultre Bell, the fianc?e of the late Sean Bell, who was also killed by an off-duty officer in 2006.? ?I am here because justice must be served,? she said.? She added that the tragedy reminded her of what she had to endure and it was ?like looking in a mirror.?
The Rev. Al Sharpton echoed the calls for justice and was particularly alarmed by the background checks on Garner.? ?Why not background checks on the officers?? he charged.?? He also expressed some strong opinions about Police Commissioner Bill Bratton?s call for a retraining of the NYPD.
?This case is not about retraining the police,? Sharpton said, ?it?s about decency and humanity.? You have children who understand ?I can?t breathe.??? He promised to march across the Verrazano Bridge that spans Brooklyn to Staten Island to protest the injustice.?