The world received a heartbreaking first-hand look at the fatal effects of police brutality against the Black community, even in the absence of weapons, when Staten Island father Eric Garner’s violent chokehold arrest was caught on tape. Now, a new NYC-based workshop is aiming to prevent other Black men from meeting the same fate.
Named after Garner’s chilling final words uttered in the last moments of this life, the ‘I Can’t Breathe’ self defense series gives Black men real-life training on how to get out of a chokehold.
The workshop was created by self defense instructor Shaun Leonardo, who also teaches the classes, and says his sense of helplessness was heightened by the killing of 18-year-old Trayvon Martin in 2012.
“It really started when Trayvon Martin was killed,” Leonardo told Complex.
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“My wife and I were considering having a kid and I remember looking at Trayvon’s face and realizing that much of what I had buried in terms of fear was all resurging. And I realized that the child I brought into this world would experience much of the same fear I experienced growing up in Queens. How do I cope with that? What can I do?”
Leonardo hopes the classes will provide an outlet for those who feel targeted in the wake of the continued police war on Black lives, while also equipping them with the proper knowledge of potentially life-saving tactics. “For those individuals, these are tools that they can take home with them,” he added.
“However, it comes with the same warning that these techniques can very well lead to more harm because they are considered resisting arrest or they are considered resistance. What they do with that information really is up to everyone in the room.”
Watch Leonardo demonstrate his tactics in the video below.