The dying words of a black man gasping for breath in a white police officer's chokehold are now the lyrics of a new song people heard Monday as they struggled with more race-related violence.
The dying words of a black man gasping for breath in a white police officer’s chokehold are now the lyrics of a new song people heard Monday as they struggled with more race-related violence.
Eric Garner’s siblings lent their voices to the ”I Can’t Breathe” track being released for the second anniversary of his death.
Garner repeated those three words almost a dozen times as police pinned him down on July 17, 2014, on a street where he was accused of illegally peddling cigarettes.
Garner’s sister Ellisha Flagg sings and his brother Steven Flagg raps in the song, streaming on SoundCloud. ”I can hear my brother crying `I can’t breathe’/ Now I’m in this trouble, and I can’t leave,” the sister sings.
And the brother raps, ”If I lose my car, I can get another one/ Lose my house, I can get another one/ Lose my mind, I create another one/ They took my brother, and I can never get another one/ I’m tired of a system that will never love me.”
The song will be available on iTunes and other online music sites by this weekend. Proceeds will go to the nonprofit Garner Way Foundation, founded by his family to educate young people about race-linked law enforcement injustice.
”We feel that police have to be cautious because it’s lives they’re dealing with,” said Steven Flagg, who owns a security firm in Staten Island, the borough where Garner died.
Two years ago, when police confronted Garner, Officer Daniel Pantaleo placed his arm around Garner’s neck to take him down. Garner, who had asthma, was heard gasping ”I can’t breathe” 11 times before losing consciousness and was pronounced dead later at a hospital.
A cellphone video of the scene led to widespread protests about police treatment of minorities. A medical examiner found the chokehold contributed to Garner’s death, but the officer insisted he didn’t use a chokehold.
A Staten Island grand jury did not indict the officer. However, Garner’s family reached a $5.9 million settlement with the city to resolve a wrongful-death claim.
This past week, Garner’s ”I can’t breathe” phrase was again invoked after two black men were shot to death during encounters with police – one in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, another in Falcon Heights, Minnesota. And at a Dallas protest against police brutality, five police officers were killed in a sniper ambush by a black gunman who was then killed by a bomb-carrying robot.
Garner’s last words have become a rallying cry for the Black Lives Matter movement staging rallies and marches across the country.
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