The mother of Eric Garner, the man who died nearly one year ago at the hands of New York City police officers, said Tuesday that a $5.9 million pretrial settlement reached with the city is not a victory, and she renewed calls for federal charges in the case.
“Don’t congratulate us,” Garner’s mother, Gwen Carr, told reporters. “This is not a victory. The victory will come when we get justice.”
Garner’s family accepted the settlement Monday, which stemmed from a racially charged case that fueled months of anti-police protests across the nation. Garner’s estate filed a claim against the city in October 2014 for damages related to his death.
“Following a judicious review of the claim and facts of this case, my office was able to reach a settlement with the estate of Eric Garner that is in the best interests of all parties,” said New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer.
Garner’s family reacted to the settlement Tuesday at a news conference with activist the Rev. Al Sharpton, who announced a rally scheduled for Saturday outside the federal courthouse in downtown Brooklyn.
“At the grand jury, we didn’t receive justice even though my son said he couldn’t breathe 11 times,” Carr said. “Eleven times he said he couldn’t breathe.”
She asked people to join her and the mothers of other men who died at the hands of police to “commemorate and never forget the name Eric Garner” at Saturday’s rally.
“We still need you to stand with us,” she said.
Garner’s daughter Erica agreed that the settlement does not represent justice for her family.
“We are calling for the Department of Justice and (Attorney General) Loretta Lynch to deliver justice for my father,” she said, referring to an ongoing federal civil rights investigation into the case.
In an op-ed in the New York Post Tuesday, Ed Mullins, president of the New York City Sergeants Benevolent Association, called the settlement “obscene” and an attempt by the city to “placate outside political agendas.”
Police Commissioner William Bratton declined to comment on the settlement.
NYC: settlement an acknowledgment, not an admission
Cell phone video of the fatal encounter on July 17, 2014 shows Garner, an African-American man, being held on the ground by an NYPD officer in an apparent chokehold. Garner, who had been apprehended for allegedly illegally selling cigarettes, repeatedly yelled, “I can’t breathe! I can’t breathe!” — words that would later become a rallying cry at anti-police demonstrations.
“We are all familiar with the events that led to the death of Eric Garner and the extraordinary impact his passing has had on our city and our nation,” said Stringer. “It forced us to examine the state of race relations, and the relationship between our police force and the people they serve.”
No officer was indicted in his death, and Stringer said that while the multi-million dollar settlement “acknowledges the tragic nature of Mr. Garner’s death… the city has not admitted liability.”
The incident — and perhaps the subsequent protests — triggered reforms inhow police go about their business, particularly in minority communities. Asked about Garner prior to the settlement announcement, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said the anniversary of his death was on his mind, as it was with many New Yorkers, but also said “I think the important thing is to stay focused on the work of reform.”
“I think we’ve come a long way, even in the last year, in terms of bringing police and community together,” said de Blasio. “The whole police force is being retrained.”