An intimate film about the deaths of three innocent men at the hands of New York City police airs Tuesday, August 17, as part of PBS’s POV documentary series. Although the names of the dead resonate from past headlines, the vividly detailed Every Mother’s Son shows just how little was revealed in the news coverage of their lives and deaths.
Reliving the horrifying moments of discovery through the eyes of their loved ones, the film makes fresh the tragedies of Amadou Diallo (killed by cops in a hail of 41 bullets), Anthony Baez (died after officer Francis Livoti pinned him in an illegal chokehold), and Gidone Busch (shot to death by police after being pepper-sprayed, in front of his home in Borough Park).
Viewers blast back to a past under Rudolph Giuliani’s aggressive NYPD, when high-profile incidents of police brutality, especially in minority communities, kept political tensions at a constant boil. It is stunning all over again to watch the heartwrenching footage of courtroom defeats, official rebuffs of the victims’ families, and mothers forced to take their grief to the streets.
Even as those tensions have quieted under a new mayor, the film serves as an important reminder that none of these deaths ever resulted in what the victims’ supporters would consider real justice: criminal charges or systemic checks. The extraordinary resolve of mothers Kadiatou Diallo, Iris Baez, and Doris Busch Boskey to win reforms takes the promise of “no justice, no peace” to a whole new level.