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Protest Rallies Mark One Year Anniversary Of Eric Garner's Death

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) -- Major rallies were held Friday to mark the one year anniversary of Eric Garner's death.

About 20 activists gathered in lower Manhattan Friday afternoon as they boarded the Staten Island Ferry for the protest at the site where Garner was taken down last year.

On Friday evening, protesters also marched down streets and through Penn Station. There were reports of arrests, but it was not immediately learned how many.

"We're over-policed,'' said Alice Sturmsutter. "If we had community police that came out of the community and understood what's going on that would be better."

Eric Garner Rally
A rally for justice on the one-year anniversary of the death of Eric Garner in police custody. (Credit: Jim Smith/WCBS 880)

Donna Shah, who was raised on Staten Island, said she was glad to see a diverse group protesting Garner's death.

"It does touch my heart to see people of other nationalities support causes like this,'' Shah said. "It does show me that they care and that they want to do something.''

The group placed 11 white roses on the small memorial for Garner, one for each time he said "I can't breathe," WCBS 880's Jim Smith reported.

"Eric Garner's crime was that he was a black man who was in the wrong place at the wrong time," said Carl Dix.

Protest Rally Marks One Year Anniversary Of Eric Garner's Death

"And we're here today to say no more. One year. One year too damn long. We want justice," said Travis Morales.

The demonstrators demanded indictments for the police officer involved.

Earlier Friday, Garner's youngest child, Legacy Garner, and her mother, Jewel Miller, released doves at the spot where he died at 10:45 a.m.

As WCBS 880's Sean Adams reported, one day Miller will have to explain Garner's death to her daughter.

"Straightforward, you know, she has to know. I think we as people, I think we deny so much what's going on; we sugarcoat things and we really make things pretty," she said. "But I'm not going to do that. I don't think it needs to be made that way. Yeah, she's a little baby, I'm not going to use words like 'murder,' but we're going to do it in like a artistic way so she could definitely understand."

"One year ago exact to this day the world shared my pain no amount of money could bring my father back no amount of time can fill this void," Erica Garner tweeted. She also said "nothing has been done" about the family's demand to turn the case over to the federal government.

Garner, who was 43, was stopped last July 17 outside a Staten Island convenience store because police officers believed he was selling loose, untaxed cigarettes.

A video shot by an onlooker shows Garner telling the officers to leave him alone and refusing to be handcuffed.

Officer Daniel Pantaleo placed his arm around Garner's neck to take him down. Garner, who had asthma, is heard gasping "I can't breathe!" 11 times before losing consciousness. He was pronounced dead later at a hospital.

Protest Rally To Mark One Year Anniversary Of Eric Garner's Death

The city medical examiner found the apparent police chokehold contributed to Garner's death. But a grand jury declined to indict the officer in the death. A federal probe is ongoing.

Chokeholds are banned by NYPD policy. Pantaleo said he used a legal takedown maneuver known as a "seatbelt," not a chokehold.

Garner's death sparked demonstrations and became a flashpoint in a national debate about relations between police and minority communities.

Now, a year later, residents in the Staten Island neighborhood where Garner was taken down say relations with police have changed, CBS2's Tony Aiello reported.

"I could say they're more chilled, more respectful now," said Chris Golds.

"They're engaging but they're just being careful with it," said Jus Timberlake.

Careful has also been the watchword for Mayor Bill de Blasio. His comments after a grand jury refused to indict Pantaleo irritated many cops.

It boiled into anger after a man seeking revenge for the deaths of garner and Michael Brown murdered two NYPD officers, Aiello reported.

Political scientist David Birdsell said the crisis impacted de Blasio's drive to transform the NYPD.

"That makes it very difficult to actually undertake a kind of business as usual 'let's reform policing practices' because now it happens in the hot glare of the most intense publicity that he had received for anything in his mayoralty to that date," Birdsell said.

Earlier this week, the city announced it had reached a $5.9 million settlement with the Garner family. The city did not admit any liability in the settlement.

The family in October filed a notice of claim, the first step in filing a lawsuit against the city, asking for $75 million.

De Blasio said that hopefully Garner's family "can find some peace and finality" from the settlement.

Several other vigils and memorials will be held Friday in Brooklyn and Harlem for people who died in police custody.

The New York City Liberties Union said officers must keep in mind how they treat the people they police.

"It's important that they understand how critically important it is for them to deeply honor and respect the people they're charged with policing," NYCLU Executive Director Donna Lieberman told 1010 WINS.

(TM and © Copyright 2015 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2015 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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