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Eric Garner's mom says seeing a black man plead "I can't breathe" is "like a reoccurring nightmare"

Police and protesters clash after man's death
Minneapolis police clash with protesters demanding justice for George Floyd 09:40

Eric Garner's dying words — "I can't breathe" — became a national rallying cry against police brutality following his death. Garner died in 2014 after being held in a chokehold by an NYPD officer. Now his mother, Gwen Carr, says hearing those same words in the video of another man who died in police custody is "like a reoccurring nightmare."

"I can't breathe" is the same phrase used by George Floyd, an unarmed black man who died on Monday in Minneapolis. Video shows him being pinned down by a white police officer kneeling on his neck.

"It was déjà vu all over again," Carr told NBC News on Tuesday, adding that she could barely stomach the video of Floyd's arrest. "It's like a reoccurring nightmare."

Carr's son, who was 43 at the time of his death, could be heard crying out "I can't breathe" at least 11 times in video shot by a bystander. The medical examiner's office later said the chokehold at the arms of the police officer contributed to Garner's death.

Gwen Carr, center, the mother of chokehold victim Eric Garner, after NYPD Commissioner James O'Neill announced his decision to fire NYPD officer Daniel Pantaleo for the 2014 death of Garner, on Aug. 19, 2019, in New York. AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews

The officer involved in Garner's death, Daniel Pantaleo, was fired in 2019 for using a banned chokehold, but did not face criminal charges.

Video of Floyd's arrest bears some disturbing similarities. Floyd can be heard repeatedly telling a white police officer kneeling on his neck that he couldn't breathe. But despite Floyd's pleas, the officer didn't let up for more than seven minutes. Floyd died hours later at a hospital.

The four officers involved in the incident have been fired by the Minneapolis Police Department. Mayor Jacob Frey said what happened was "wrong at every level." State and county authorities and the FBI are investigating.

Floyd's family members say they want the officers charged.

"We need to see justice happen. In this case, this was clearly murder. We want to see them arrested. We want to see them charged. We want to see them convicted for what they did. He did not deserve what happened to him," his cousin, Tera Brown, told "CBS This Morning" Wednesday. 

Floyd's death sparked protests on Tuesday. Demonstrators marched roughly two miles from the site of the arrest to the Minneapolis Police Department's Third Precinct building. 

"I don't want the protests to just be for show. I want to see action. I want to see these people pay for what they did. We need to hold them accountable," Brown said.

CBS Minnesota reports officers dressed in riot gear formed a barrier around the precinct, and videos show them using smoke bombs or tear gas, as well as flash grenades, against the demonstrators. 

The protests over Floyd's death extended far beyond Minnesota. The video has been shared across social media along with calls for justice. Many shared an image of Floyd with his final words written across it: "Pease I can't breath. My stomach hurts. My neck hurts. Everything hurts. They're going to kill me." 

On Twitter, the hashtag #MinneapolisPoliceMurderdHim began trending on Wednesday. It was one of several hashtags used to call attention to Floyd's death, including #JusticeForGeorgeFloyd. 

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