NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ – It was appropriate that Sunday afternoon’s protest paused on the stretch of Bayard Street between the Middlesex County Courthouse and City Hall.
That’s where Gwen Carr told the 400 or so people assembled up and down the block that she’s still fighting for justice more than six years after her son, Eric Garner, died after being placed in a chokehold by a New York City police officer.
Carr said that after all of her fighting, only one police officer was fired in the wake of the events of July 17, 2014 on a Staten Island street where Garner whisper “I can’t breathe” with his final gasps of air.
The fight for justice, the fight against police misconduct, the fight so that everyone knows that Black lives matter – Carr said it must move from the streets to the statehouse.
“Now, we’re demonstrating and that’s beautiful,” she said. “We have to go from demonstration to legislation because no matter how much we shout in the street, it’s not going to get anything done unless we go the next step. Demonstration is only to bring about awareness that there is a problem. Now we have to go and solve that problem. We have to go to our legislators.”
Carr said she was inspired to continue her work as an activist and advocate in earnest after the death of George Floyd in May. In fact, she said was struck at the similarities between their deaths.
In June, Carr was invited as New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed the “Eric Garner Anti-Chokehold Act” that makes it a statewide felony for an officer to engage in a chokehold except in situations where he or she is protecting their own life.
On Sunday, she said that bringing about this sort of real change often requires using persistence to break down bureaucratic walls and do-nothing officials. Some of them will ask to table their conversation to another time.
“But I don’t want to hear, ‘Oh, um, can I have another conversation,’” Carr said. “’Can you tell me when we’re going to have this next conversation because too many of our children are being murdered, senseless murders, unarmed murders. I want to know when we can have a conversation and what you can do for me.’”
The protest was one of several that have been organized here and other places across New Jersey by New Brunswick native Tormel Pittman.
Pittman led the protestors through the streets with call-and-response chants such as “When they say get back, we say fight back.”
While much of Sunday’s protest focused on the deaths of Garner and Floyd, Pittman also invoked the names of Mike Brown, Freddie Grey and Barry Deloatch.
Many of the protestors held signs that emblazoned with “Black Lives Matter” and others were scrawled with calls to defund the police.