"Eric Garner did not die in vain. Sean Bell did not die in vain," Cuomo said upon signing State Senator Brian Benjamin's Eric Garner Anti Chokehold bill. It happen last Friday, when Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo signed into law a sweeping package of police accountability measures that received new backing following protests of George Floyd’s killing.
The bill establishes the crime of aggravated strangulation as a Class-C felony.
Senator Benjamin had this to say, “I can’t breathe. Eric Garner’s dying words have been chanted in the streets of New York for nearly six years. Now, they have reached a deafening roar as worldwide protests against police brutality continue in the wake of the killing of George Floyd, another Black life lost to excessive force by police officers.
We are taking an important step forward today to end excessive force by police by with my bill, S.6670B, the Eric Garner Anti-Chokehold Act, which prohibits the use of chokeholds by law enforcement and establishes the crime of aggravated strangulation as a Class-C felony. Black Lives Matter, and this bill will ensure that police are finally held accountable when they use the kind of excessive force they have used disproportionately on Black Americans like Eric Garner, George Floyd, and Breona Taylor.”
It’s been almost six years since a New York City officer wrapped an arm around Eric Garner’s neck, put him in a choke hold and pulled him to the ground. His repeated cries of “I can’t breathe” transformed into a rally slogan against police brutality—an issue that has dominated national attention in recent weeks over the murder of George Floyd.
Garner’s mother, Gwen Carr, joined Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Friday as the Democrat greenlit a ban on police choke holds statewide and the repeal of a decades-old law used to shield police disciplinary records from the public.
“It was a long time coming, but it came. And thank you, thank you all very much,” Carr said at the press conference while wearing a T-shirt with her son’s image on it.
Those bills were part of a larger package of police reforms that sailed through the Legislature this week. Some of the measures had been around for years, but only saw a groundswell of momentum following outrage over Floyd’s death. Following his death were nationwide protests over police brutality and the killing of black Americans by police.
“Eric Garner did not die in vain. Sean Bell did not die in vain,” said Cuomo, who also approved a measure allowing civil lawsuits on frivolous 911 calls based on someone’s race.
The bill banning police choke holds makes aggravated strangulation by a police officer a class C felony under state law. The law signed Friday says the charge would apply when an officer uses a choke hold or “commits the crime of criminal obstruction of breathing,” causing serious injury or death.