'We will never let you forget what you did to Eric Garner', Rev. Sharpton says of black man killed by police.
Eric Garner, the black man who was killed three years ago by a New York City police officer accused of using an unjustified and unlawful chokehold, was commemorated Monday night at a church in Harlem.
Rev. Al Sharpton, founder of prominent civil rights group National Action Network, said Garner's case was more than just another black life lost to police brutality.
"The whole last wave, the whole activism revival, started with Eric Garner," Sharpton told the gathering at the First Corinthian Baptist Church, which included family members and churchgoers.
He said Garner's killing was the catalyst that touched off the Black Lives Matter movement, which rose to life following similar tragedies over the last three years that drew national attention by virtue of being captured on video.
"You judge the success of movements by the change that occurs. And we will determine whether all of our activities moved this nation forward by how we deal with the case of Eric Garner," he said.
Pastor Michael Walrond who preaches at the historic Harlem church said the issue went beyond police brutality.
"In this country, we don't just have a police violence crisis. We have a human crisis," Rev. Walrond said.
"The only way you can choke a man to death who continually says 'I can't breathe' is if you don't see him as a human being," the pastor said to thunderous applause.
A protest took place Monday night at the Staten Island Ferry Terminal, blocks away from where Garner was killed on camera after confronted by police on suspicion of selling single cigarettes.
The video of the incident shows Officer Daniel Pantaleo put his arm around Garner's neck and take him down, seemingly ignoring him saying 11 times, "I can't breathe".
The video went viral, and -- coupled with the shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown less than a month later -- triggered dozens of protests across the country.
During Monday's event at the Baptist Church, a video presentation showed celebrities describing 23 everyday things black people might do that triggered actual deadly encounters with police, such as "wearing a hoodie" in the case of Trayvon Martin and "making eye contact" in that of Freddie Gray.
Garner's daughter Emerald, founder of the Eric Garner Foundation, said: "We are here to let people know that this stops today."
Emerald described the work that the foundation does, which among other things includes empowering communities by offering them mental health services to deal with the trauma and fear associated with police brutality.
"We are not going to keep letting you kill us and we are not going to do anything about it," she said.
The commemoration ended with a prayer for Eric Garner and others who died senselessly at the hands of police officers.
Three years on, Garner's family continues to seek justice for their husband and father.
Officer Pantaleo was never indicted and to this day serves as an officer, even getting a twenty percent raise and making nearly $120,000 in the fiscal year of 2016, according to payroll records first revealed by Politico.
Shooting deaths of blacks by police have long fueled tensions and led many to believe implicit racial bias on the force has caused overreactions with deadly consequences.
In May, Texas police officer Roy Oliver was fired from the force, arrested and charged after killing a black teenager by firing into a car full of teenagers in Balch Springs.
Days earlier, South Carolina police officer Michael Slager admitted to violating the civil rights of an unarmed black man he fatally shot in the back during a traffic stop.
Slager faces life in prison if convicted of using excessive force in the 2015 shooting death of Walter Scott in a case that caused nationwide uproar.
Scott’s death was one of a number of killings in 2015 and 2016 that provoked a national debate about law enforcement’s use of lethal force.
The Justice Department this month declined to charge two white officers in the shooting death of Alton Sterling, who was killed last July in Louisiana.
Sterling’s death on July 5 in Baton Rouge, and the killing of Philando Castile, by police in Minnesota the following day, led to massive protests across the country led by the Black Lives Matter activist group.