On Saturday (Dec. 13), the families of Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin and Akai Gurley congregated at the Freedom Plaza in Washington D.C, for a rally and march against police violence that drew thousands of supporters from across the country.
Led by the Rev. Al Sharpton, the march eventually moved down Pennsylvania Ave towards the U.S. Capitol building.
Protestors who carried signs and chanted for change came in all colors and ages, but their determination to highlight and hopefully stamp out what they saw as rampant police abuse was the uniting factor.
The conditions that drew the crowd were grim – in a matter of weeks, two separate grand juries voted not to indict police officers in the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner – but the energy here today was very much positive and constructive.
Protestors gathered peacefully, marched peacefully, and every person I approached was happy to explain their vision for a world where a person’s skin color wouldn’t put their lives at risk.
Garner’s sons told MTV News that they were blown away and encouraged by the support they’d received in the wake of their devastating loss.
“This is very overwhelming, I really appreciate everybody coming out and showing their support and I hope that we can get justice,” 19-year-old Eric Garner Jr. told MTV News. “People want their voices to be heard and [this is] how they’re gonna get justice and [have] their voices be heard.”
“I’m not anti-police,” he said. “I’m just mad about what the officer did to my father. I want to stand up for what’s right and what the officer did wasn’t right, he should be prosecuted.”
Garner Jr. added that his father had even given him advice on how to deal with police officers. “[My father] always told me how to carry myself—[he said] if a cop stops you, hand him your ID, and then ask what he stopped me for.”
His younger brother, 15-year-old Emery Garner-Snipes, had a more difficult time getting the words out, and while we spoke, he was approached by a protestor who hugged him, and told him she hoped their efforts today could prevent something like this from happening in the future.
“It feels nice that everybody comes out to support my dad,” the softspoken teen told MTV News. “I would say to keep on fighting for my dad and thank you for supporting me and my family.
“We appreciate it. We need to stay strong and stay focused.”
And for kids his own age, he had some very pointed advice. “Go and find a sport, or find something you like to do, or just be active – don’t be on the streets,” he said. “Do something and stay out of the streets.”
Members of Eric Garner’s extended family also participated in the march, and his 37-year-old nephew Gabriel Baez found comfort in the solidarity he was witnessing.
Baez managed a smile as he pointed out the multicultural youth who were spending their Saturday in protest and he expressed hopes that police officers would be able to build better relationships with minority communities in the near future.
“A positive outcome would be that the community comes together and stays positive and keeps up this united front,” Baez said. “My uncle’s not coming back regardless of what happens. So as far as the officer is concerned – he could go to jail, he could lose his job, he could [remain as] an officer, but it’s not gonna bring my uncle back.”
“But if the community stays unified like this, then that’s bigger progress than going after the cop, because what we really need is unity amongst ourselves.”