NEW YORK — The dying words of a black man placed in a white police officer’s chokehold are now the lyrics of a new song people heard Monday as they struggled with more race-related violence.
Eric Garner’s siblings lent their voices to the “I Can’t Breathe” track being released for the second anniversary of his death.
Garner repeated those three words almost a dozen times as police pinned him down on July 17, 2014, on a street where he was accused of illegally peddling cigarettes.
According to Billboard, Garner’s sister Ellisha Flagg sings and his brother Steven Flagg raps in the song, streaming on SoundCloud.
“I can hear my brother crying ‘I can’t breathe’/ Now I’m in this trouble, and I can’t leave,” the sister sings.
And the brother raps, “If I lose my car, I can get another one/ Lose my house, I can get another one/ Lose my mind, I create another one/ They took my brother, and I can never get another one/ I’m tired of a system that will never love me.”
The song can be bought on iTunes and will be available from other digital retailers on Saturday.
Officer Daniel Pantaleo placed his arm around Garner’s neck to take him down. Garner, who had asthma, was heard gasping “I can’t breathe” 11 times before losing consciousness and was pronounced dead later at a hospital.
A cellphone video of the Garner takedown led to widespread protests about police treatment of minorities.
A medical examiner found the chokehold contributed to Garner’s death, but the officer said he didn’t use a chokehold.
A Staten Island grand jury didn’t indict the officer. However, Garner’s family reached a $5.9 million settlement with the city last year to resolve a wrongful-death claim.
This past week, Garner’s “I can’t breathe” phrase was again invoked after two black men were shot to death during encounters with police — one in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, another in Falcon Heights, Minnesota. And at a Dallas protest against police brutality, five police officers were killed in a sniper ambush by a black gunman who was then killed by a bomb-carrying robot.
Garner’s last words have become a rallying cry for the Black Lives Matter movement, which is staging rallies and marches across the country.
Billboard quoted Garner’s sister as saying the song was “dedicated to the struggle everyone is going through.”