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"I Can't Breathe"

"I Can't Breathe"

The Eric Garner Story: With Esaw Snipes-Garner & Roee Messinger

New Program: "I Can't Breathe"

“I Can’t Breathe,”  Eric Garner’s last words  before he was killed by an NYPD officer in  Staten Island in 2014, has become a rallying cry for the Black Lives Matter movement. But why was there never a  trial of the officer involved? What would have been revealed if a case had gone to court? And most of all: What would the verdict have been? These are the questions that your organization, campus or community can not only examine—but reach a verdict on—as jurors in the trial that never happened.

Offering numerous opportunities for audience participation, this highly interactive program examines the case from all angles—providing valuable insights into social justice, our legal system, and the case that fueled the Black Lives Matter movement.

The Program:

Film Screening. The event starts with a screening of Roee Messinger’s American Trial: The Eric Garner Story, the 2020  critically-acclaimed film, which premiered to rave reviews at the 57th annual New York Film Festival. The film is an unscripted courtroom drama, enacted by real lawyers and the actual witnesses who would have testified in court had the case been tried. The only actor in the film portrays the defendant, NYPD Officer Daniel Pantaleo. American Trial also includes commentary and context from civil rights and legal experts, including renowned legal scholar Alan Dershowitz. Lauded for its balanced and strict presentation of extensively researched facts in its depiction of the trial, American Trial: The Eric Garner Story provides a factual, basis for your community to reach a verdict.

Conversation with Filmmaker Roee Messinger and Esaw Snipes-Garner, Widow of Eric Garner.

Following the film, your audience is asked to enter their own verdict using the polling function of any videoconferencing platform. While they decide, they will also participate in an engaging Q&A with the filmmaker and widow of Eric Garner. This segment could also be a moderated conversation conducted by a member of your faculty or representative of a student organization.

The Verdict. Five minutes before the end of the program, the moderator calls for final verdicts before closing polling. Your community’s verdict will be included in a nationwide total as groups across the nation host this history-making event.

Both a lesson in our legal system and a catalyst for constructive discussion of race and social justice, I Can’t Breathe builds community and fosters meaningful dialog in the era of virtual programming.

The Participants

Esaw Snipes-Garner

Esaw is the widow of Eric Garner, who was put into a lethal chokehold by police during an attempt to arrest him for selling loose cigarettes. She has since become a respected advocate for police reform, specifically, use of force. Married for 26 years, Eric and Esaw had six children together. One of their children died as an infant. Their daughter, Erica, who became an activist after her father’s death, died at the age of 27 of a heart attack. In spite of the many tragedies that have plagued her, Esaw continues to be an inspiration to her surviving children, her grandchildren, and audiences around the nation.

Roee Messinger

Roee is a New York-based filmmaker and film teacher. His debut feature film, American Trial: The Eric Garner Story, is about the trial that never happened following the death of Eric Garner at the hands of the NYPD premiered to rave reviews at the 57th annual New York Film Festival. Roee was born in Israel, raised in Mexico and educated in the U.S, where he graduated from   City College’s MFA program under the sponsorship of the prestigious Fulbright fellowship for international students. Since graduating, he  has worked for a number of education organizations around New York City, including the Educational Video Center, Lincoln Film Society and Young Audiences of New York.