A year ago today, Eric Garner was choked to death by an NYPD officer who was trying to arrest him for selling loose cigarettes.
The actions of Officer Daniel Pantaleo likely wouldn't have been questioned—Garner weighed 350 pounds and was resisting arrest—had a bystander not pulled out his phone and recorded the minutes leading up to the fatal chokehold.
Mayor de Blasio and NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton promised a "full and thorough investigation" into Garner's death, which the Medical Examiner later ruled a homicide.
Former Staten Island District Attorney Daniel Donovan Jr. convened a grand jury, which refused to indict Officer Pantaleo of murder or the lesser charges of manslaughter or criminally negligent homicide. Legal experts believe that Donovan did not want to indict Officer Pantaleo. Donovan fought to keep the grand jury records sealed, then ran for Staten Island's Congressional district, and won.
Garner was just one of 14 unarmed African Americans killed by law enforcement in 2014, sparking a number of protests—especially after a grand jury refused to indict Officer Pantaleo.
The killings, combined with the murder of Officers Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu, also threw Mayor de Blasio's relationship with police officers into disarray.
Last week Governor Andrew Cuomo appointed a special prosecutor to investigate police-related deaths, though this seems like a stopgap solution, at best. Also last week, relatives of Eric Garner accepted a $5.9 million settlement offer from the city, while insisting they would continue to demand justice for Garner and other victims of police brutality. The head of the Sergeants Benevolent Association dismissed the settlement as "obscene."
Pantaleo, who has been on desk duty for the past year, is eager to get back on the street. The Daily News, which obtained the original video of Garner's death, recently released the unedited version, which lasts 11 minutes.
There will be a #Rally4Justice, organized by the NYCLU and many other civil rights, labor, religious, community and social justice groups, tomorrow, Saturday, at noon in Brooklyn's Cadman Plaza "to demand justice for Garner and transformation of the justice system," according to an NYCLU press release. The NYCLU is still fighting for the Eric Garner grand jury records to be unsealed.
Today, a memorial and rally for Garner begins at 1 p.m. outside the Staten Island Ferry terminal in Manhattan and ends on Bay Street in Tompkinsville, where Garner was killed. At 5:30 p.m., Millions March NYC is hosting a rally at Columbus Circle.