Eric Garner Way renames Bay St. in Staten Island

Gwen Carr
In this Thursday May 9, 2019 photo, Gwen Carr, left, mother of Eric Garner- an unarmed black man who died as he was being subdued in a chokehold by police officer Daniel Pantaleo nearly five years ago, speak during a press conference after leaving court in New York.
Associated Press/Bebeto Matthews

On the eve of the eight-year anniversary of the July 17, 2014 choke-hold death of 43-year-old Eric Garner, members of his family, elected officials, friends and a large contingent of supporters of his legacy cheered the unveiling of a street sign renamed in his honor.

Eric Garner Way now marks the former Bay St., a thoroughfare adjacent to Victory Blvd. in Staten Island where the son, father, husband and American citizen was subdued by members of the NYPD, one of whom used an illegal procedure to squeeze life from his body.

“It gives me great pleasure how many people remember him eight years later,” Garner’s 73-year-old mother Gwen Carr said at the location.

Beaming broadly at the sight of the unveiled white lettering marking Eric Garner Way — a green background contrasted the name from the rectangular square — she gazed looking upward as if to acknowledge the first sign of victory she tirelessly sought in order to avenge the loss.

“I am proud of how many people showed up,” the relentless mom added.

“I prayed every day for eight years for this day,” Carr said, “and now it’s come to pass. We haven’t received complete justice but this is a step in the right direction.”

Since her son’s death Carr joined forces with Rev. Al Sharpton and his National Action Network in a campaign to seek accountability for the senseless death she believes should have been ruled a murder.

From a video recorded by a witness, Garner pleaded with officers 11 times begging to loosen restraint from his neck.

Repeatedly he pleaded for mercy saying “I can’t breathe.”

To no avail Officer Daniel Pantaleo tightened his grip and for seven seconds used his arm to suppress the Black individual whose only crime was selling loose cigarettes in the area.

Although no one was criminally charged with the death, Pantaleo was fired from the NYPD.

On a rainy afternoon, Carr thanked police officers who kept her safe throughout her grief-stricken journey. She particularly expressed gratitude to members of the NYPD who regularly ensured her safety.

She also thanked fastidious protesters who camped out at the police precinct on the night of the tragedy; demonstrators who showed up every anniversary to demand justice, Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, Rev. Al Sharpton and Herbert Daughtry, comptroller Brad Lander, and a long list of organizations and individuals determined to get justice for Garner.

Approved in the City Council last year the initiative to rename a street should “be about remembering Eric’s life, not about his death,” Lander said.

“The street sign is a physical remembrance,” former City Councilman Rory Lancman added, “it will be here forever, so what happened to him does not keep happening.”

While in office Lancman sponsored legislation banning police chokeholds.

Following the unveiling, crowds numbering more than 100 shouted “Eric…Garner…Eric …Garner” to a chorus of cheers that erupted near the Staten Island thoroughfare he was killed.

Joshua Lopez was among the celebrants. He displayed his torso adorned by a red, black and green fist shaped by tattooed names of victims of police brutality.

“This day means a lot because a street is being named for Eric Garner,” he said.

Along with Lopez, mothers in solidarity with Carr traveled from Maryland, Utah, Georgia and other states amassed where the tragedy occurred.

Along with national news media outlets, FreedomnewsTV broadcasted from the site.

In addition to the renaming ceremony, a basketball tournament honored the martyred citizen whose plea is attributed to spawning the Black Lives Matter Movement and may have bolstered the justice for George Floyd movement.

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