The death of a black man during an arrest attempt wasn’t in vain, and could help change the relationship between police officers and the communities they patrol, Mayor Bill de Blasio said at a service in honor of Eric Garner.
De Blasio spoke Tuesday night, the day after the city reached a $5.9 million settlement with Garner’s family over his July 2014 death. His family said they would continue pressing for federal civil rights charges.
“This is a new chapter in our relationship between the police and our communities,” de Blasio said. “That will make us a better people. That will make us a more just city. That will make us a safer city.”
Mindful of a delicate relationship with police over the Garner incident, de Blasio made sure to be inclusive in his remarks.
“All lives matter,” he said, before explicitly saying that while it should be self-evident, it must be still said that “Black lives matter” and, after he praised the police, “Blue lives matter.”
The settlement came nearly a year after the 43-year-old Garner died, having repeatedly pleaded “I can’t breathe!” as Officer Daniel Pantaleo took him to the ground with an arm around his neck. Garner lost consciousness and was pronounced dead later at a hospital.
He had refused to be handcuffed after being stopped on suspicion of selling loose, untaxed cigarettes on a Staten Island street.
The encounter, caught on an onlooker’s video, triggered protests. Coupled with police killings of black men elsewhere in recent months, Garner’s death became a flashpoint in a national debate about relations between police and minority communities.