On this solemn anniversary, I first want to commend the Garner family for the dignity, grace and persistence they have shown in spite of their overpowering loss. They have committed to being a force for change and, as a result, have been an inspiration to us. Their loved one has become our loved one, and we all hurt with them.
The last year has been one of tears, frustration and anger. Together, we witnessed the tragic death of Eric Garner, just a few blocks from my office. On that summer afternoon, Mr. Garner said “this ends today.” But sadly, tragedy didn’t end July 17. We went on to witness, again with our own eyes, a litany of tragic deaths: 12-year-old Tamir Rice, Walter Scott and Freddie Gray. Our city mourned the killings of NYPD detectives Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos, officers who gave their lives protecting New Yorkers. And more recently, we saw the horrific shooting of eight African American churchgoers in South Carolina, eight men and women who had welcomed a young man into their midst.
Out of these tragedies, however, have come real conversations, in our homes and in our churches, in our offices and in the halls of government. And out of those conversations, change—although not as much change as many of us had hoped for. We are in a different place now than we were one year ago. We’ve changed our reality from aspirational to operational. But there is still work to be done. Vigilance is always required.
Healing starts when people admit that healing is needed. For a while, we were in denial, and that denial kept us apart, fractured the government, fractured relationships between our family in blue and families in our communities. We have to cross a barrier that has kept us apart, a barrier that has said ‘my philosophy is the right philosophy.’ We admit together that it has to be one philosophy — and it’s that all lives matter.
We must come together to be the recipients of peace and harmony. We must cast out hate and move forward, so that we can all really live what we talk about — a unified community that loves and cares for all.
Just as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said that the arc of the moral universe bends toward justice, I am confident that this city, this state, this nation, will bend toward justice.
Here in New York City, we’ve begun a process of police reforms: the retraining of the entire police force and a renewed emphasis on community policing, where officers interact with residents and get to know them—the way it was when I grew up on Staten Island.
Because, as a city, we bend toward justice.
In our state, the governor has designated the attorney general as a special prosecutor for cases in which unarmed civilians die at the hands of a law enforcement officer. It’s a welcome step to removing conflicts, whether real or perceived.
Because, as a state, we bend toward justice.
And finally as a nation, we’re again talking about race, and I expect these conversations to continue. We watched a historic event last week, the removal of the Confederate battle flag from the South Carolina statehouse. A symbol of hatred and slavery, raised there in the 1950s to counter a growing Civil Rights movement, was finally furled forever.
Because as a nation, we bend toward justice.
Our conversations will continue into the next year. We will work, together, to ensure that no other family will have to live through the tragedy that the Garner family has endured. Because out of tragedy can come the opportunity for positive change. And we will work together, today, tomorrow and however long it takes to have peace in our neighborhoods, in our city and in our nation.
That is our shared commitment, because together, we can and will continue to push the arc toward justice.