Watch CBS News

'Is This The End Of It? I Don't Think So': Gwen Carr, Mother Of Eric Garner, Reacts To Derek Chauvin's Conviction

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- Six years before George Floyd said "I can't breathe," Eric Garner said the very same words in New York City.

Both cases involved an attempted arrest for a non-violent offense, both involved force deemed unauthorized by their own police departments and both men's deaths were ruled a homicide by the local medical examiner.

The officer in the Garner case, however, was never charged with a crime, while Derek Chauvin has been convicted on murder charges.

CBS News' Tony Dokoupil spoke to Garner's mother, Gwen Carr, about what's changed in America and what has not.

"Do you remember where you were ... when you heard the news [about Chauvin], guilty on all counts?" Dokoupil asked.

"In my house with two TVs on," Carr said.

"How did you feel in that moment?" Dokoupil asked.

"Just tears started falling from my eyes," Carr said. "Yes, just tears, and I just, I was in the house by myself so I was acting crazy."

"Did you feel like your son was there in some way?" Dokoupil asked.

"Yes, I do. I know his presence was there, and he was probably jumping with me," Carr said.

"Do you remember how you felt when you first heard about what happened to George Floyd?" Dokoupil said.

"I said, 'This is like a echo from the grave,'" Carr said.

As Dokoupil pointed out, there are so many similarities, but one very big difference.

"That's right. One big difference. They did get justice," Carr said.

In July of 2014, as bystanders caught it all on camera, Garner was accused of selling loose cigarettes and pulled to the ground by a New York City police officer.

Although that officer, who wrapped his arms around Garner's neck, was later fired, he was never charged with a crime.

Instead, Garner's last words helped ignite a movement.

"The first time most people heard the phrase 'I can't breathe' in a march was after your son's death," Dokoupil said.

"That's correct," Carr said.

"Do you think the outrage and the demonstrations following the death of your son helped create the atmosphere necessary for justice today?" Dokoupil asked.

"It set the stage. I'm pretty sure my son's death and the outrage that the people showed at that time set the stage. So when other injustices happened, this is why I think everybody came out, wow, this is happening again," Carr said.

"Did you expect at the time when you heard the details of the Floyd case that that family would get an indictment, a trial and now a conviction?" Dokoupil asked.

"No, I really didn't think so, because I know what had happened on previous occasions with a lot of the families," Carr said.

Even as she celebrated the verdict in the Floyd case, she says it was also complicated -- a feeling of elation for the Floyd family but also reflection on what's happened to others.

"I'm not only angry, I'm outraged that this can keep on happening. It happened with me. It happened with others that we never will know about. It happened with George Floyd. When will it end? Is this the end of it? I don't think so," Carr said.

"Does today feel in some small way like justice for Eric Garner as well?" Dokoupil asked.

"It's a piece of justice for us all," Carr said.

"There's no bringing him back," Dokoupil said.

"No, never," Carr said.

"But is it some small solace knowing that what happened to him helped set in motion What happened today?" Dokoupil asked.

"Yes. You have to take the bitter with the sweet. You have to say -- I say my son didn't die in vain. He set the precedent for this day to happen," Carr said.

Carr also made the point that the Floyd case is the exception and most officers do not face charges, let alone convictions. She mentioned in particular the officers who killed Breonna Taylor in Louisville in a botched raid.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.