Why I'm Protesting for Eric Garner
by Isela Larreinaga, Junior Writer
As a child growing up in El Salvador, I remember hearing my mother talk with my father about how her friend was thrown into jail for stealing food from the market; the man only stole because his family didn’t have any food. The police beat the man during arrest and while he was in jail. This confused me because I thought police were supposed to protect the citizens from dangerous people and keep cities safe.
When we moved to New York, I told my mom I’m glad that in the United States since we won’t have to deal with government brutality and that the police have respect for us just like we do for them. But this past summer, my opinion about the police began to change. Police abused their power and that shouldn't be done. I was watching the Spanish news with my mother and uncle when I heard that a father named Eric Garner was killed from a police choke-hold that was illegal.
When I saw that I just couldn't believe it. I was angry. It made me feel like the police have no respect for people of color. My mother told me that maybe Eric Garner was resisting arrest, so I decided to look up the story online. I came to this video that was filmed by a man witnessing Eric Garner being arrested. As I watched the video, I couldn't even think straight and I was furious. It showed how one of the police officers had him in a choke-hold as Eric Garner was cuffed and on the ground. Other police began to sit on him and the poor man was calling out, “I can’t breathe, I can’t breathe.” What did the police do? They continued to do what they were doing while Garner couldn't breathe. He slowly died. It wasn't until he got to the hospital that they said he was officially dead, but you could see from videos that he was dead long before he got there.
I was hoping that the police would get arrested or charged for this brutality. When I learned that the policeman, Daniel Pantaleo, wasn't going to be charged on the day the non-indictment was announced, I wanted to go to protest to show that I’m one of the many thousands of people who was hurt by this tragedy to Eric Garner. But I didn't just go for Eric Garner; I went for all the other people who were abused by the police. The police are not doing their job correctly and they need to be stopped.
When I arrived at the protest I saw an abundant amount of police and their cars. I saw signs that said, “I can’t breathe” and “Black lives matter.” I saw a crowd of people and as I was approaching the crowd, I heard them chanting, “Hands up, don’t shoot.”
I began to have these feelings within me that made me happy. I felt like I had a voice just like everybody else in the crowd. I was also blown away by the fact Eric Garner’s unfair death united so many people in New York City. It was an incredible feeling knowing that I’m not the only person who wants things to change and that I’m not the only one feeling angry at police getting away with things like this.
I hope that the government sees that the people don’t feel safe, that police brutality should end. I hope that our voices are heard because this can’t continue. I’m so grateful I had the opportunity to stand up for what I believe in beside the people who believe in the same thing as me. People shouldn’t be afraid of the police; they are supposed to be here to protect us not endanger us.
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