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Eric Garner family presses for federal charges against NYPD cop at Brooklyn rally

Esaw Snipes Garner, Eric Garner's widow, speaks at

Esaw Snipes Garner, Eric Garner's widow, speaks at a rally in Brooklyn on July 18, 2015, seeking justice for Garner's death. Credit: Anthony Lanzilote

Hundreds rallied Saturday to demand a federal criminal case against the NYPD officer whose apparent chokehold a year ago killed Eric Garner, and activists promised not to go away until the cop is in handcuffs.

Mothers of black and Latino men slain by police over the past two decades stood together with Garner's family on a stage outside the federal courthouse in Brooklyn to keep pressure on prosecutors there considering such a case.

"I will not stop loving him. I will never stop fighting for him," said Esaw Snipes Garner, Eric Garner's widow.

The protest was part of a week of memorials and activism to commemorate the anniversary of the Staten Islander's death on July 17, 2014. Garner, 43, died during an arrest on suspicion of peddling untaxed cigarettes.

"We have a lot more work to do," said city Comptroller Scott Stringer, who last week greenlighted a $5.9 million settlement with Garner's heirs.

Annette Dennis, president of the Nassau County chapter of the Rev. Al Sharpton's National Action Network, was among about 50 people who took vans from Freeport to the Brooklyn rally.

"You have these police who are sworn to protect and serve," Dennis said. Then, referring to Garner's last words, she said: "And the man called out, how many times, 'I can't breathe'?"

Garner's mother, Gwen Carr, said, "Together we'll stand and we'll win this fight. They may knock us down but they're not gonna knock us out."

The rally lasted more than two hours and much of the crowd came from organized labor: the health care union 1199 SEIU, 32BJ, which represents janitors, guards and other building workers as well as those for transit workers and nurses.

"Black lives matter! All lives matter!" said Kyle Bragg, 32BJ's secretary-treasurer. "But it's black lives that are being snuffed out every day."

Sharpton said federal prosecutors have not hinted how they'll decide the case. A spokeswoman for the U.S. attorney's office did not return a message seeking comment.

Also at the rally were families of other slain black males: Michael Brown, 18, who was shot dead last year during a confrontation with a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, and Trayvon Martin, the 17-year-old fatally shot in Sanford, Florida, in 2012.

A Staten Island grand jury declined to indict the NYPD officer who put his arm around Garner's neck. The officer, Daniel Pantaleo, remains on the force and has been assigned to desk duty.

Pantaleo lawyer Stuart London did not return a message seeking comment.

The rally, held on a field at Cadman Plaza, drew fewer people than organizers had planned: about an hour into the event, workers disconnected loudspeakers blaring the speeches upfield -- to a group of young men playing soccer.


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