Eric Garner choke hold death: African Americans see a legal system stacked against them

Protesters in Times Square demand justice for the death of Eric Garner. Credit: Reuters

"I can't breathe! I can't breathe!"

This is the dramatic chant we are hearing echo around the streets of New York City.

Protesters are using the dying words of a desperate Eric Garner to rally support for the campaign to hold the police accountable.

In multiple locations across Manhattan activists gathered to make clear they cannot accept the Grand Jury decision not to charge the police officer who placed Garner in the fatal choke-hold.

The 43-year-old man died of a heart attack shortly afterwards. He had been merely selling untaxed cigarettes.

Civil rights activists see a straight line from Ferguson in Missouri to New York City; from the police shooting of Michael Brown to the police choking of Eric Garner.

Protesters in Oakland, California protest against the deaths of Eric Gardner and Mike Brown. Credit: Reuters

Both involved unarmed black men. But in this televisual world there is one massive difference: While the circumstances surrounding the killing of Brown remain highly disputed, the death of Garner was captured on video.

That is why so many legal analysts are stunned this morning. Whether the officer should be convicted can be debated. But not to charge him? Not to proceed to a criminal trial where a regular jury could weigh the facts?

African Americans see a legal system stacked against them. It's not so much a question of police brutality, but a lack of transparency and accountability.

The Federal government shares that concern, fearing that race relations are deteriorating after these two incendiary Grand Jury decisions.

So the Attorney General is launching his own Department of Justice investigation into what happened to Garner.

Thousands of protesters shouted at police and clogged streets of Manhattan last night Credit: Reuters

But it won't be enough to rebuild trust between police departments and minority community.

This is a rupture that will take years to heal.

Indeed it is the legacy of decades of police insensitivity, occasional brutality, and an American criminal justice system that is failing in its most basic duty: Treating everyone equally under the law.

Watch Robert Moore's report: