Why #ICan’tBreathe swept the nation

Almost immediately following the death of Eric Garner in July 2014, hundreds of thousands of angry civilians protested for justice all around Manhattan, fed up with the number of black lives lost at the hands of white police officers.

Nearly 30,000 people came together for the Millions March near Washington Square Park in NYC in December 2014. The eyes on their signs are Eric Garner’s.

The hashtag #ICan’tBreathe swarm social media after the release of Eric Garner’s arrest video hit the internet. The video, filmed by a witness at the scene, reveals the aggressive encounter between Garner and a number of police officers, allowing audiences around the world to witness what exactly went down.

In the video at about 1:16 you can see the two officers begin to get touchy. By 1:40, there are at least five or six officers on Garner trying to hold him down. Garner can be heard gasping repeatedly “I Can’t Breathe,” as officer Daniel Pantaleo has his arm wrapped around his neck.

People were traumatized after being able to hear Garner’s words. The hashtag #ICan’tBreathe was mostly used by protesters in December 2014 and tagged along with other largely used tags; #BlackLivesMatter, #AllLivesMatter, #HandsUpDon’tShoot, all relating back to the bigger issue of racial injustice and police brutality. This just goes to show how powerful video can be.

Just recently, Garner’s daughter, Erica Garner talks about how her father’s death has still impacted the family even 18 months later. Democracy Now!, an independent global news outlet, had Erica Garner and Ramsey Orta, the bystander who filmed the fatal altercation between Garner and the police, on their show to discuss some of the things that have happened in the 18 months and how the two of them were thrown into the national spotlight.

Here’s an excerpt of what Erica Garner had to say:

But it makes it so different because now we are part of this national scale. Like everything we do is in the paper. We got people coming from the left field giving us bad advice, people coming in with their own agendas. And it’s like we are — we were thrust into the spotlight and was like out there. We don’t have union reps and people to represent us and tell us, “Well, you need to do this, you need to do that.” And, you know, my family has just been dealing with that, trying to stay organized and also deal with the fact that my father is gone and like nothing is being done about it.