Several dozen teens and young adults stood on the steps of Borough Hall in St. George on Friday, the one-year anniversary of the death of Eric Garner, chanting, singing and holding signs that read “Black lives matter” and “Our justice system is broken.”
The event was touted as a launch for a youth-led campaign to register voters, but there was little talk of the group’s plans to do so and most of the 15-minute-long gathering focused on what its participants see as police brutality and an unfair justice system that targets minorities.
“It has been a year since Eric Garner was killed. …,” shouted Adilka Pimentel of Make the Road New York, a social justice organization that is leading the youth. She stood in front of the youngsters spread out on the steps, looking out into the harbor.
“This issue isn’t about police/community relations. That’s changing the topic. It’s about how we stop the police from killing, brutalizing and abusively treating members of our communities.”
Members of the group donned T-shirts that read, “Eric Garner Can’t Vote But We Can” while Josh Smith from Brooklyn read a poem based on Garner. Maria Vasquez and Berla Lopez, both from Queens, led the group in song.
“I can hear my brother saying ‘I can’t breathe,’ now I’m in the struggle saying, ‘I can’t leave’ … the violence of these racist police,” they sang.
Poleth Farfan, a junior at Susan E. Wagner High School, read from a prepared statement, recalling how Garner’s mother, Gwen Carr, visited the group recently and spoke about her son.
“Today we are here to remember the life of Eric Garner. … She also talked to us about the case that followed. … District attorneys are elected officials and they need to be held accountable, just like any other elected official by using the power of our vote.”
Asked about the group’s plans for holding voter registration drives, Pimentel said they have nothing planned yet.
She said the goal is to influence the Staten Island district attorney’s race in November and put into office someone who “hold cops accountable.”
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