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Marchers call for federal prosecution in Eric Garner death

Eric Garner's widow, Esaw Garner, is comforted by

Eric Garner's widow, Esaw Garner, is comforted by Al Sharpton on July 16, 2016, at an event in Brooklyn commemorating the two-year anniversary of Eric Garner's death. Photo Credit: Getty Images / Stephanie Keith

Demonstrators marched through Brooklyn on Saturday, expressing frustration that the federal government has yet to decide whether to prosecute an NYPD cop in the 2014 death of Eric Garner.

Led by Garner’s mother, Gwen Carr, and the activist preacher Al Sharpton, hundreds of protesters moved south on Flatbush Avenue to Grand Army Plaza, marking nearly two years to the day of Garner’s homicide on July 17, 2014.

“Two years later, we still haven’t gotten justice,” Carr said Saturday.

Garner, 43, died while being arrested in Staten Island on suspicion of selling loose cigarettes, an accusation he denied. His final words — “I can’t breathe!” — uttered 11 times after Officer Daniel Pantaleo restrained him in an apparent chokehold, became an early rallying cry for the nascent Black Lives Matter movement. Chokeholds are banned under the NYPD’s patrol guide.

According to published reports, there is a split within the U.S. Justice Department over whether to charge Pantaleo with a federal crime: New York City-based federal prosecutors don’t believe there is sufficient evidence to make an arrest, but headquarters officials disagree and want the case to proceed, according to anonymous sources cited by the reports.

A grand jury in 2014, led by the Staten Island district attorney’s office, declined to indict Pantaleo. The officer remains with the NYPD but has been off street patrol since Garner’s death.

“We want the Justice Department to come in in this case, on Eric Garner, they have not made a decision,” said Sharpton, who met with President Obama last Thursday to discuss police accountability. “They will see today that hundreds of us are still determined.”

Wearing a blue shirt bearing her son’s photograph, Carr told marchers: “We want each one of you to stand in unity — not for the black, not for the white, not for the Latino, but for all of us; we have to stop the killing.”

Demonstrators carried placards and wore shirts with slogans that included, “No justice, no peace,” and “Don’t shoot. Black man walking.”

On Sunday, the Garner family will visit his grave site in Elizabeth, New Jersey, Sharpton spokeswoman Rachel Noerdlinger said. The city last year settled a civil case brought by Garner’s family for $5.9 million.

Carr said she would continue to battle for a criminal case against the police.

“I’m tired, I’m hot,” she said, as temperatures surpassed 90 degrees, “but I’m going to continue this march. I’m going to finish this march.”

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