TOPSHOT - Protesters gather under the rain near the spot where George Floyd died while in custody of the Minneapolis Police, on May 26, 2020 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. - A video of a handcuffed black man dying while a Minneapolis officer knelt on his neck for more than five minutes sparked a fresh furor in the US over police treatment of African Americans Tuesday. Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey fired four police officers following the death in custody of George Floyd on Monday as the suspect was pressed shirtless onto a Minneapolis street, one officer's knee on his neck. (Photo by Kerem Yucel / AFP) (Photo by KEREM YUCEL/AFP via Getty Images)
Protesters and police clash over George Floyd's death
02:53 - Source: CNN
CNN  — 

Almost six years ago, Eric Garner took his last breath after being put in a chokehold by a New York City police officer.

His last words, “I can’t breathe,” became a rallying cry in the Black Lives Matter protest movement.

This week, the same words were used by George Floyd, a black man who died after a Minneapolis police officer placed his knee on Floyd’s neck. Floyd was arrested Monday after officers responded to a call about an alleged forgery in progress.

Video taken by witnesses shows 46-year-old Floyd pleading that he is in pain and can’t breathe for several minutes. Then, his eyes shut and the pleas stop. He was pronounced dead at a nearby hospital.

A crowd protests the death of George Floyd outside a police precinct in Minneapolis on Tuesday.

Four police officers involved in the incident were fired Tuesday, Minneapolis police said. Later on Tuesday, crowds gathered to protest Floyd’s death. Some demonstrators held “I can’t breathe” signs and chanted near the scene of the fatal encounter and at a nearby police precinct.

‘We want criminal charges’

In an interview with CNN, Garner’s mother, Gwen Carr, said what happened is forcing her to relive her son’s death.

“It’s hard enough we’re coming up on the anniversary of my son’s death, and now to hear about this young man, it’s like déjà vu,” said Carr. “It’s just like the murder of my son all over again. He was basically the same age as Eric.”

Garner died on July 17, 2014, after police attempted to arrest the 43-year-old father of six, who was allegedly selling loose cigarettes illegally on Staten Island. Cellphone video shows an officer maintaining a chokehold as Garner is taken to the ground, crying out, “I can’t breathe,” over and over again.

The officer who choked Garner, Daniel Pantaleo, was never charged in his death. He was fired in 2019 after being found guilty in a disciplinary trial of using a chokehold.

Carr said she wants to see a different outcome in Floyd’s case.

“We want criminal charges. This officer intended to take this man’s life,” Carr told CNN. “There’s no other way. Look at that video, they outright murdered that young man. No matter what he did, he wasn’t doing anything to threaten them, so why would they kill that young man? Just like they killed my son,” she said.

Earlier Wednesday, Carr spoke to Floyd’s family on the phone with the Rev. Al Sharpton, according to a news release from the National Action Network. Carr pledged to work with Floyd’s family and supporters to fight for accountability and justice, according to the release.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation has opened an investigation into Floyd’s death, which will focus on whether the Minneapolis officers involved “willfully deprived (Floyd) of a right or privilege protected by the Constitution or laws of the United States,” according to a statement from the FBI’s Minneapolis Division.

“This can’t be swept under the rug,” said Carr. “We have to treat this as it is, and not just another news story.”

CNN’s Elizabeth Joseph, Ray Sanchez, Joe Sutton, Artemis Moshtaghian, Mark Morales, David Shortell, Eric Levenson and Christina Maxouris contributed to this report.