Protesters in New York demanding justice for Eric Garner, Dec. 4, 2014.
Protesters in New York demanding justice for Eric Garner, Dec. 4, 2014.

NEW YORK (WOMENSENEWS)–The mothers and family members of young men who were killed by New York Police Department officers–all the survivors are African American or Hispanic–came together on Dec. 20 at Riverside Church in Manhattan to share their stories.

At the time, news of two police officers shot dead in Brooklyn hadn’t broken. The mothers later expressed their condolences to the officers’ families and condemned all violence.

As a group the mothers agree they cannot depend on the district attorney for justice and call for an independent prosecutor in cases involving a killing by the police. They also ask for an end to the secrecy of grand juries probing the deaths of African Americans and Hispanics at the hands of law enforcement.

Here is a sampling of their remarks.

Constance Malcom, Mother of Ramarley Graham

Her son was killed in 2012. The grand jury failed to indict.

"I had three kids. I only have two now, my daughter who is going to be 25 and I have my son Cheddar, he is 9. He is the one who was in the house when it happened and I fear for him every day. Anybody that knows me will tell you when I talk about him I cry because he is only 9 and I fear for him. This is why I fight so hard because I cannot bury another child. I just can’t do it. I’m strong right now but there are days I don’t want to move out of my bed, I don’t want to get up but I know I have to keep going because I want to make a difference for him and all the boys and girls right here. That’s why we mothers keep going, because we want change. We must get change."

Malcom expressed pride in the multi-racial movement that has staged demonstrated across the country against police violence. But she warned other women about the risks their children still face.

"No matter how your teach your kids to be respectful to officers, sometimes it doesn’t work for them . . . No matter how you know your rights, when an officer has a badge and a gun, they think they are above the law. All I have to say is love your kids because you don’t know when it is gonna’ be the end for them."

Like others, Malcolm urged the appointment of an independent prosecutor to look at their cases.

"The judges, the district attorney and the police work very closely. The DA relies on the police to make their cases and the judges also work with them…As black and brown people, we have these people already against us. They already have their minds set that we are all criminals so how can we trust them? So what we need is an independent person from outside to come in and look at these cases. As you see time and time again, none of us got any justice. How can we get justice? By having an independent prosecutor. Let’s start there."

Gwen Carr, Mother of Eric Garner

Her son was killed in July 2014. The grand jury failed to indict.

"We will not get justice if we depend on the DA. The DA and the police department, all are together. We need that independent prosecutor to look at our cases impartially so we will have a fair chance in court. We do not need to see another death at the hands of the police and then not get justice . . . our justice system is a broken thing."

Iriz Baez, Mother of Anthony Baez

Her son was killed in 1994. After state prosecutions failed, officer Francis Livoti was sentenced by a federal jury to seven an half years in prison for violating Baez’s civil rights. Two other officers were dismissed from the police department for giving false testimony in Livoti’s defense.

"I have 11 children. They took one. That means I have to help the other 11. If I stop then I am letting them down because I know that Anthony would stand up and keep on fighting. I am here till the end. I can’t quit even if I want."

Cecilia Reyes, Mother of Noel Palanco

Her son was killed in 2012.

"I feel these grand juries are too secret. Why can’t we be involved? Why can’t we know what is being said? Why can’t we know what is being presented. I think we should fight till we get at least something to say into what’s going on into these grand juries."