Eric Garner's family rallies for indictment in chokehold case

The family of Eric Garner and hundreds of 'black lives matter' protesters rallied in New York on Saturday while, in Toronto, loved ones laid to rest Andrew Loku following his shooting.

'We don't care how long it takes. We want justice'

Rev. Al Sharpton speaks to protesters during a rally near a New York court on Saturday. Family and supporters marked the anniversary of the police killing of Eric Garner with rallies and vigils demanding police reforms and justice in the controversial case. (Eduardo Munoz/Reuters)

The widow of Eric Garner and hundreds of protesters rallied outside a U.S. courthouse on Saturday, calling on federal prosecutors to indict the white police officer who put the black New York City man in a fatal chokehold one year ago.

Meanwhile, in Toronto, a funeral was held for a black man shot to death earlier this month by police at special housing complex for people with a history of mental illness. 

"You all keep me empowered to speak," widow Esaw Garner told the demonstrators at the federal courthouse in Brooklyn, N.Y.

"I will not stop loving him," she added. "I will never stop fighting for him."

The rally brought Garner's family together with the loved ones of other black American men— Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Ramarley Graham — whose high-profile deaths have prompted outcries and protests. It was the second day of protests to mark the anniversary of Garner's death on July 17, 2014.

Garner died after the police officer placed an arm around his neck to take him to the ground. A grand jury declined to indict the officer. A federal inquiry is ongoing but the protesters said they want charges to be brought now.

Garner's death, coupled with police killings of unarmed black men elsewhere, spurred protests around the U.S. about police treatment of black men.

"We stand together today by the hundreds saying we don't care how long it takes. We want justice for Eric Garner," Rev. Al Sharpton said at the rally Saturday.

Garner's family reached a $5.9 million settlement with the City of New York this week over the death. But family members and their supporters have said they want reform of the criminal justice system, not just a cash settlement.

Donna Lieberman, executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, called for an end to the secrecy of the grand jury system.

"Black lives do matter," she said.

Loku funeral in Toronto

The chant of "black lives matter," which has become a rallying cry for protesters, was echoed this week in Toronto where a community organization interrupted a police board meeting, demanding the police force acknowledge their requests following the shooting death by police of Andrew Loku, of South Sudan, on July 5.

Members of the community group Black Lives Matter attended a Toronto police board meeting Thursday to demand action in response to the fatal police shooting of Andrew Loku. (Michael Charles Cole/CBC)

Loku's funeral took place Saturday in Toronto. 

Black Lives Matter organizers said the 84 recommendations issued to the Toronto Police Service on how to deal with people in crisis, issued following the 2013 shooting death of Sammy Yatim, have not been heeded.

Yatim was suffering from "an emotional disturbance," according to his family's suit against Const. James Forcillo. Loku was living at an affordable housing complex funded by the Canadian Mental Health Association at the time of his death.

Ontario's Special Investigations Unit is looking into Loku's death.

Police-community relations

Communities have done more to scrutinize their police forces since last year's shooting death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., according to Prof. Yohuru Williams of Fairfield University in Connecticut. 

"You're seeing efforts by people to bring Ferguson-style investigations of their own community policing to bear so that they're able to have benchmarks to try to improve the quality of police-community relations," Williams told CBC News on Saturday. Brown's death led to a report conducted by the U.S. Justice Department.

"The significance of the Ferguson report is not so much that it will create systemic change, but it is a first step in an opportunity for the communities to say, 'Maybe we can do that and try to move forward,'" said Williams.

The report said that blacks in Ferguson are disproportionately subject to excessive police force, baseless traffic stops and citations.

With files from CBC News