Funeral for Gowanus native Eric Garner turns sermon on NYPD brutality

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Al Sharpton brought the fire and brimstone to a Boerum Hill church on Wednesday at the funeral for the Gowanus native who died last week after police put him in a chokehold on Staten Island.

The liberal firebrand lashed out at the NYPD in front of hundreds of mourners gathered at Bethel Baptist Church in Boerum Hill to remember Eric Garner, the Staten Island father of six who died last Thursday after police took him down, one using the throat grab that the department banned in 1993. Sharpton demanded that the officers responsible be held accountable, beyond the reported reassignment of two officers involved to desk duty.

“You always have an excuse when this happens,” Sharpton said, drawing parallels to other men killed by New York cops. “What excuse can you come up with this time? There was no gun!”

The incident occurred on July 17, when, according to police, officers approached Garner after they saw him selling loose, untaxed cigarettes. Several videos of the arrest, beginning slightly after the confrontation started, have surfaced online, showing an agitated Garner begging cops to leave him alone.

“Every time you see me you want to harass me,” he shouts.

In the video Garner tells officers he had been breaking up a fight, and denied their charges of illegally selling untaxed cigarettes, a contention backed up by the videographer.

“I’m minding my business,” he says. “Please just leave me alone.”

When officers move in to arrest the heavyset Garner, one officer, Daniel Pantaleo, uses his elbow to choke Garner as he gasps and shouts, “I can’t breathe!”

Garner died shortly thereafter although the medical examiner’s office has not declared an official cause of death.

Several pols joined Sharpton at the funeral, which was held near the Gowanus Houses where Garner spent his first 15 years. Public Advocate Letitia James took to the pulpit to pledge her support for new police training guidelines and the video-recording of all street stops.

“We will demand justice in the city of New York,” James said. “I promise a full and complete investigat­ion.”

But for the Brownsville-raised Rev. Sharpton, who has spent much of the past three decades rallying people against perceived injustices affecting African Americans, new training guidelines aren’t enough.

“You don’t need training to stop choking a man after he says ‘I can’t breathe,’ ” he said, to cheers. “You need to be prosecuted.”

As the mourners filed out of the church, they struck up a chant of Garner’s last words:

“I can’t breathe.”

Reach reporter Noah Hurowitz at or by calling (718) 260-4505. Follow him on Twitter @noahhurowitz
Updated 10:17 pm, July 9, 2018
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Reasonable discourse

Reactionary Al says:
Shame this guy died but where's Mr. Tawana Brawley advocate Sharpton been all these years speaking out against the crime and violence in St. George Staten Island all these years.
July 24, 2014, 5:35 am
hb from park slope says:
it speaks for itself. it is unfortunate that the behavior of a few policemen without the common sense to defuse a situation leads to this outcome . it really destroys respect for the entire nypd.
July 24, 2014, 10:09 am
Correct your reporting from Red Hook says:
Garner did not shout. Look at the videos. He's soft-spoken throughout and sounds more tired and pleading than threatening. Shame on you for writing it like that. Please correct the copy.
July 24, 2014, 11:12 am
Frank from None says:
Lets stir the pot in the Tawana Brawley style of rabble rousing.
July 24, 2014, 6:35 pm
fatimah from cobble hill says:
What does Tawana Brawley have to do with this? A man died for no reason at all. Oh wait a minute, he died because we was black. And the police officers killed him. Have some respect for his grieving family. More tired than threatening? Why was he is a choke hold at all? You guys are a bunch of jerks.
July 25, 2014, 5:39 am
Reactionary Al says:
fatimah I have respect and said its a shame he died. "Tawana Brawley" figures in because of the role Sharpton is playing. In case you missed it, I asked where was he all these years as crime, especially black-on-black and most especially black-on-latino crime, was occurring in that same neighborhood of Staten Island. For years! There are plenty of better voices out there than Sharpton to speak right now.
July 25, 2014, 5:58 pm

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