NEW YORK (AP) — An overflow crowd packed a church and sang songs on Wednesday at the funeral of a man who died in police custody after an officer placed him in an apparent chokehold.
Eric Garner’s relatives stopped in front of his open casket, some weeping and wailing. A preacher opened the service at Brooklyn’s Bethel Baptist Church with a mix of solemn prayer and an organ-backed gospel medley.
Garner, who had asthma, died last week on Staten Island. An amateur video shows a plainclothes police officer placing him in what appears be a chokehold. Garner, who police suspected of selling untaxed cigarettes, can be heard gasping, “I can’t breathe!”
At the church, the program depicted Garner as an angel and included a collage of photographs from his life and death, including one of a sign echoing what he told officers before he died: “This Stops Today.”
The Rev. Al Sharpton told the crowd he was scheduled to meet Friday with the U.S. attorney’s office, and he called for a civil rights probe. He took Ramsey Orta, the man who shot the video, to the lectern and praised him for recording the arrest.
Sharpton fired up the crowd with a point-by-point dissection of the events that led to Garner’s death.
“Yes, God will make a way, but God expects something of us,” he said. “When you can, in broad daylight, choke one of God’s children, he expects us to stand up and demand justice.”