When Eric Garner died during his arrest by police on July 17 2014 in Staten Island, Ramsey Orta filmed the incident, capturing Garner repeating “I can’t breath” 11 times while being restrained. It’s a video that fueled protests as part of the Black Lives Matter movement and the phrase has been adopted by activists, celebrities and athletes.
Now, on the second anniversary of Garner’s death, Empathetic Media is partnering with social venture project Silicon Harlem, which works to promote technological innovation in the borough. The story, entitled “I Can’t Breath: The Eric Garner Arrest,” will be hosted on Empathetic Media’s free app, ARc Stories, the first augmented reality (AR) sequential storytelling app.
To get started, follow these quick steps:
Using a trigger of Silicon Harlem’s logo (as below), anyone with a smartphone or tablet can view audio, maps and text that provide context to human models of Garner and the police, which are based on Orta’s video. This piece is part of Empathetic Media’s mission of using augmented reality, virtual reality and 360 video to present compelling stories in a unique, interactive way.
“With the evidence presented in the video, there’s often a risk that an emotional response to the footage can prove too overwhelming for viewers,” said Dan Archer, the founder of Empathetic Media. “By breaking it down into its key moments, we want to give users control to explore the scene and its accompanying media to understand the pivotal moments and situate them in a longer historical context.” The experience focuses on the main events that led to Garner’s death. After being accused of selling single cigarettes, Garner was put in a chokehold by New York City Police Department officer Daniel Pantaleo. It appears the police made little attempt to resuscitate Garner after he ended up on the ground. Eventually, an ambulance arrived, and he was pronounced dead
after arriving at the Richmond University Medical Center. His death sparked protests, led by civil rights activist Al Sharpton, as part of the growing Black Lives Matter movement.
On December 3, 2014, a grand jury decided not to indict Pantaleo, leading to future demonstrations as well as staged “die-ins” in cities around the United States. With the recent deaths of Alton Sterling in Louisiana and Philando Castile in Minnesota, conversations around police shootings in the United States have surged once again. According to Archer, it is more important than ever to continue covering this issue. “Two years after Garner’s fatal arrest in Staten island, we wanted to remind audiences of one of the original incidents that sparked the Black Lives Matter movement,” he said. This is Empathetic Media’s third piece on police shootings in the United States. The first piece, entitled “Ferguson Firsthand,” was a virtual reality and graphic journalism partnership with Fusion that let users explore the scene of Michael Brown’s shooting by police officer Darren Wilson on August 9, 2014. The experience relies heavily on court documents, specifically interviews with various eyewitnesses and other pieces of evidence that users can learn about while moving through the virtual Canfield Green apartments complex in Ferguson, Missouri. Earlier this year, Empathetic Media released “The Freddie Gray Arrest,” a collaboration with The Washington Post that like the Garner piece, used AR to depict the events leading up to Gray’s death on April 12, 2015 in Baltimore, Maryland.
What makes Empathetic Media’s coverage of police shootings unique is that because of the 3D models, users are able to explore scenes from multiple angles that bring the factual evidence of the case to life. Archer believes that this sort of storytelling encourages people to care more about an issue and can lead to positive social change. In age of oversaturated news consumption, AR provides an opportunity to take news events and transform them into stories that audiences will relate to in ways they cannot with more traditional mediums. Even more, AR encourages users to learn about the news together, making it a shared experience. “Multiple users can open the story on the same trigger and experience it from multiple angles,” he said. “Our goal is to spark a conversation and foster a sense of communal news consumption.”