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'Stand Up, Take Notice': Eric Garner's Mother On Recent Police Shootings


The list of black men killed by police was already long before two names were added this week, Philando Castile and Alton Sterling. For some perspective on what their families are going through right now, we've reached out to Gwen Carr.

Her son Eric Garner died two years ago during an arrest in New York City after police placed him in a chokehold. Tomorrow morning, she will speak at a gathering in New York, condemning violence against police. Ms. Carr, thank you for joining us.

GWEN CARR: Thank you for having me.

SHAPIRO: And first, let me just ask what you are feeling at the end of this very difficult week.

CARR: It was very discouraging. Very - I was feeling despair. It was deja vu all over again. I was really feeling depressed behind these killings.

SHAPIRO: I can assume why you would feel so depressed about these killings. But can you explain specifically, after two years of campaigning and speaking out and marching, you know, what it feels like to see this continuing to happen?

CARR: Yes. It's like it's ongoing. It's not stopping. And I have been campaigning to try to stop the violence because we all have to have respect for one another. All of our lives matter. And with these killings - these senseless killings - it's just taking me back a little - a lot.

And actually, I haven't looked at the video. I don't look at the news because it's so heartbreaking. But my husband - he does. He watches the news all the time. And then he'll come, and he'll tell me what's going on.

SHAPIRO: What would you tell the families of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile? This is a path that you have been on for almost two years. And they are just starting on this path. What insight can you offer them?

CARR: Well, when this first happened to me, I thought that I would just lay down and die. I just wanted to get in my bed and just wait until someone awaken me from this crazy nightmare. But that never happened. I never woke up. So I just got up.

And with some positive people talking to me and helping me, I was able to get up and turn my mourning into a movement and my sorrow into a strategy. And what I mean by that - I've had to lift up my loved one's name. I had to show people that this is not what I'm going to take lying down.

You know, he was my loved one. To you, he was nobody. But we must bring awareness. And those families - please keep awareness out there. Don't let it die because that's what they expect us to do. Oh, this - now it's headlines. Tomorrow, it'll be yesterday's news. Never let it become yesterday's news because to them, it's a headline. To us, it's our lives.

SHAPIRO: Tell me about your decision, after the killing of these police officers in Dallas, to hold an event speaking out publicly, opposing violence against police.

CARR: Well, I say to that that all police are not bad. So we can't hold all of them responsible for a few because we have people in law enforcement. And everyone wants to go home at night. But on the other hand, I say, too - police have to do their job. They're supposed to serve and protect. And it seems like it's against us.

So what I say about that - get the bad apples out. Make the superiors do their jobs. They know what's happening in their precinct. So it starts at the top.

SHAPIRO: Beyond the burden of losing your son, is there a burden in being a national symbol of something larger than your own tragedy?

CARR: Oh, yes. There's a burden. It's not a great life out there. People say, oh, you're in the limelights. I didn't ask to be in the limelights. I was pushed into this. And when I speak, I speak from the heart. I'm not trying to get political gang (ph). I'm not trying to be a public figure. I just want people to stand up and take notice. I just want awareness of what's going on out here in the world.

Because if I don't put it out there, who will? I am now my son's voice. And that's what those other families have to do. They have to be their loved one's voice because if you don't do it, no one is going to do it for you. They'll do it now. But later on, you're going to be on your own.

SHAPIRO: Well, Ms. Carr, thank you very much for speaking with us and sharing your experience with us.

CARR: OK, thank you for having me.

SHAPIRO: That's Gwen Carr, whose son Eric Garner died two years ago during an arrest in New York City after police placed him in a chokehold. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.