Friends and supporters gathered Wednesday night at a church in Brooklyn, N.Y., to mourn for a man who died last Thursday after being placed in a banned chokehold by police.
Cellphone video of Eric Garner's altercation with police in Staten Island has gone viral over the past few days, and includes a scene in which Garner says "I can't breathe" at least eight times as police press his head into the sidewalk. Police said they suspected Garner, a 350-pound asthmatic, of selling untaxed cigarettes.
On Wednesday, Eric Garner's wife, Esaw Garner, entered Bethel Baptist Church leaning on two young boys, and Garner's mother, Gwen Carr, followed soon after, her head bowed, according to the Metro.
Inside the church, Esaw Garner collapsed as she viewed her husband in a white casket inscribed with the words "Eric Garner, In God's Care," according to the New York Daily News. The late husband and father of six wore a white silk suit with turquoise shirt, the News reported.
"My God, they took him. They took my baby. They took my baby," Esaw Garner screamed, according to the News.
"He cared for everybody," she said as she fanned herself in the pews. "He didn't deserve this."
CHOKEHOLD DEATH: NYC police express anger at public reaction
Among the mourners was Kadiatou Diallo, the widow of Amadou Diallo, who was shot to death in a highly publicized case in 1999 by police, who mistook his wallet for a gun.
"It brings back terrible memories," Diallo told the Daily News on Wednesday. "After all these cases and all these years, nothing seems to change."
Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams attended Garner's wake. "For small, non-violent crimes, conversation is better than incarceration," he told the Daily News.
CHOKEHOLD DEBATE: Video surfaces of new alleged chokehold incident
Two police officers have turned in their badges and guns during investigations by the Staten Island district attorney and a police internal affairs unit. Two emergency medical technicians and two paramedics have been suspended without pay in the case too. The case has prompted Police Commissioner Bill Bratton to order a review and overhaul of police violence training. Bratton also said the FBI has questioned police investigators.
Protesters stood outside the church, with one man holding a sign that said "I can't breathe!" and a child near him holding up a sign that read "God Bless Eric Garner's Children!"
Mourners began arriving in the afternoon and Garner's family arrived at about 5:30 in a stretch limousine, the Daily News reported.
Al Sharpton, a civil rights activist, was scheduled to deliver the eulogy. Sharpton's office announced late Wednesday that he, Garner's family and their lawyer will meet Friday morning with the U.S. Attorney of the Civil Rights Division of the Eastern District of New York.