NAN Calls For Policy Progress with Eric Garner Anti-Chokehold Bill—
(New York, NY) — As hundreds of thousands of Americans take their outrage to the streets in widespread protest amidst a global pandemic, our nation is faced with the harrowing question; how many more black and brown lives will be senselessly lost to police brutality before we see our government take action?
The national outcry for racial justice in America is a familiar story, yet in this stark moment following the death of 59-year old man George Floyd, the tone is different. The 400 years of historical oppression and marginalization is palpable not only in our own nation, but along with others expressing their solidarity across the world. Nearing the six year anniversary of the death of Eric Garner — a man whose last words, “I can’t breathe,” sparked a national activist movement — we hear those same words uttered again, and the government has yet to take meaningful action.
In September 2019, Al Sharpton and Democrat State Senator Brian A. Benjamin introduced the Eric Garner Anti-Chokehold Act (S6670A), which establishes that a person is guilty of strangulation in the first degree and a class B felony when he or she disregards any procedures banned by his or her employment and commits the crime of criminal obstruction of breathing or blood circulation, and thereby causes serious physical injury or death to another person.
Reverend Sharpton along with Eric Garner’s mother, Gwen Carr and others, testified in front of the House Judiciary Committee on September 19th, 2019, to advocate for a variety of legal restraints against police use of force. In a moment of unfortunate prescience, Ms. Carr pleaded, “How come no one was held accountable? Most people can’t even comprehend how difficult it is to suddenly lose a child and to fight for 5 years and just get an ounce of accountability.”
On Thursday, June, 4th, hundreds gathered in Minneapolis to eulogize yet another black man suffocated to death by police. In his compelling eulogy, Reverend Sharpton drew a dark parallel between George Floyd’s death and the long suffering history of black America. “401 years ago, the reason we could never be who we wanted and dreamed of being is you kept your knee on our neck,” Sharpton said. “It’s time for us to stand up in George’s name and say ‘Get your knee off our necks!”
The familiar last words of Eric Garner and George Floyd were explicit pleas to police officers employing excessive and deadly force. And yet in all interactions with police that resulted in death between 2013-2019, in 99% of cases zero charges were brought against police. Passing anti-chokehold legislation along with other common-sense limits on police use of force, will help ensure police accountability. Few police departments currently employ these limits, and without State or Federal enforcement, there will be nothing to hold them accountable in the future.
Since 2014, there have been variations of the “Eric Garner Anti-Chokehold” bill at both city and federal levels with the original House version of the Excessive Force Prevention Act first introduced by Congressmember Hakeem Jeffries, and the chokehold law, first introduced by New York City Councilman Rory Lancman.
In the wake of sweeping protests across New York City this past week, we are just beginning to see movement as The City Council is reported to soon vote on two pieces of legislation, originally proposed in 2014 that criminalize the use of a chokehold. Similarly, NY1 reported recent efforts by NY senator Kristen Gillibrand to push a federal bill passed that would outlaw the use of chokeholds or maneuvers that restrict the flow of blood to the brain by law enforcement.