There’s a reason I’ve waited until the weekend to write this post. I’ve never been one to ignorantly jump on the same bandwagon as the rest of the media and blogosphere before all of the facts and research are in. Maybe that makes me “uncool” or lazy. I’m not sure. Regardless, I really see no point in forming an opinion or choosing a side without knowing what actually happened. It just seems immature and irrational. After all, when protestors in Ferguson chose to ignore the facts, all hell broke loose.
But, this case isn’t Ferguson and Eric Garner isn’t Michael Brown. This one is different. This one is more complex. Michael Brown was a violent criminal who made a choice to steal, bully a storeowner, get into a fight with a police officer and then try to steal that officer’s gun. That sort of decision usually doesn’t end well for any criminal. It certainly didn’t end well in Michael’s case. And despite what the protestors, feckless race baiters, and Internet agitators want you to believe, all of the evidence supported Officer Darren Wilson’s version of the story. Half of it was caught on tape by the store’s security camera, the other half was verified by several credible eyewitness testimonies.
It might be a little ironic that both Michael Brown and Eric Garner were dealing with some form of tobacco. Brown was stealing cigars. Garner was selling untaxed cigarettes. But the cases are so diametrically opposed that there are no comparisons to be made. So let’s not even start that.
While it’s true that Garner did have a long criminal history (over 30 arrests, nine of them for the same crime), selling untaxed cigarettes isn’t exactly a crime punishable by death. (In fact, it’s an act that might have even been seen as patriotic just a few centuries ago.) Part of me really believes that this man should never have died. There’s been much speculation over the legality of the officer’s chokehold technique and that debate is still ongoing. It may never even be resolved. But, should Garner have died? It’s obvious that he was overweight and in poor health. It’s been reported that during the officer’s chokehold, Garner said, “I can’t breathe.” This is where I’m going to disagree with some of my fellow bloggers and journalists — many of who are arguing that if someone is able to speak, then they are obviously able to breathe. While I understand this argument, Garner’s cry of “I can’t breathe” could have been the panicked response of an asthmatic — a response that could have actually meant, “I’m having trouble breathing and I could die, so please let go of my throat.” I’m no doctor and I wasn’t there while the officers were attempting to subdue Garner, so I won’t make a judgment call on this.
And honestly, that’s the whole point. Even with all of the evidence, the research, the video, the reporting and the grand jury’s final decision, this is a case that, unlike Ferguson, is still very unclear in some areas. I’ve watched the video, I’ve read dozens of reports and I’ve seen hours of news coverage, but I’ve yet to come to a solid conclusion on this one. It’s apparent from the video that tension between the officers and Garner escalated rather quickly, with Garner obviously believing there was no reason for the officers to be upset with him, much less arrest him. However, it’s also obvious in the video that he did resist arrest, flailing his hands and arms so that the officers could not cuff him. This is when one of the officers approaches Garner from behind, and executes that chokehold — a technique that many say is against NYPD protocol, rules and regulations.
Do I believe that the officer was intent on killing Garner? Not at all. For crying out loud, there were dozens of pedestrians and eyewitnesses standing around. What police officer, in his right mind, would say, “Hey, I’m going to kill this guy in front of all of these people, most of who probably have camera phones!” This was a tragedy of epic proportions. It should never have happened. But, had Garner cooperated immediately with the officers, he would likely still be alive. Had he immediately laid down on the ground, rather than fight to remain on his feet, he would likely still be alive.
But, at the same time, it’s obvious that Garner was not resisting arrest in a violent way. He didn’t punch the officer. He didn’t whip out a gun or knife. He didn’t channel the Incredible Hulk and throw an officer clear across the street. Yes, he’s twice the size of the officer. Yes, he was very uncooperative, but he was not violent. And this is an important distinction to make. Why? Because it raises the question of whether or not the officers used the appropriate form of a takedown in this specific case. Obviously, the grand jury decided there wasn’t enough evidence in this regard to indict the officer who executed the chokehold.
Now, to be fair, let’s look at this incident from the point of view of the police officers. You’ve approached a man who is breaking a law by selling untaxed cigarettes. Yes, it’s a dumb, pointless law. But, as a police officer, it’s your job to uphold such laws, whether you agree with them or not. So, you start up a [seemingly] calm discussion with this guy and decide you need to arrest him for breaking said law, and probably take him in for questioning since you know he has a fairly extensive criminal history. You go to handcuff him and he resists. He’s twice your size, so if you’re going to subdue him, you’re going to need the help of another officer or two. He continues to be stubborn and resist and before you know it one of your fellow officers has his arm around the guy’s throat in an attempt to put him on the ground. You hear the guy say, “I can’t breathe.” but at the same time you’ve also heard that from countless other people you’ve arrested who were just trying to escape. So what’re you supposed to do? Let the guy go just because he said he couldn’t breathe? Are you supposed to stop this whole thing in mid-arrest?
The real question here, at least in regards to the actions of the officers, is whether or not they knew that the way in which they subdued Garner would result in his death. Honestly, there’s no clear evidence of premeditated murder or “police brutality” (as the race hustlers like to refer to incidents like this one.)
And, even more importantly, there’s absolutely no evidence whatsoever that this case had anything to do with skin color. Race baiters like Al Sharpton and all of his blind followers really need to let this go. (Not that they will, but I can dream right?) Garner wasn’t subdued because he was black. He was subdued because he resisted arrest. We can debate all day about whether or not the officers handled the situation properly. But to bring race into this is nothing short of lunacy. (One of the officers was even black.) Maybe it would have been racism if that cigarette law only applied to black people. But the law isn’t racist. It’s just a law. And this guy broke that law. Who cares about his ethnicity? Do you have any way of proving that if Garner had been white, this whole incident would have played out differently? How can you possibly know that? Do you think the cops would have said, “Oh wait! This dude is white, let’s move on and go attack some black people!” Seriously?
There’s just simply not enough clarity with this case for anyone to protest or allege that Garner died because he was black. Or that he was “killed for selling cigarettes.” I’ve seen that phrase all over social media and countless blogs this week and honestly I’m sick of it. It’s so utterly naive and ignorant. By saying that Garner was “killed for selling cigarettes” you’re suggesting the idea that the cops intentionally murdered him. There’s no evidence of this, so stop pushing that narrative. This was a horrible tragedy in which an unlawful citizen resisted arrest and died while being subdued by an officer using a technique that has been used plenty of times.
Whether or not there were grounds to charge the officer with some sort of criminal misconduct is up for debate. And I’m sure it will be debated for the next several months or even years. I’m also sure that law enforcement agencies across the country will be reviewing their policies for chokeholds and physical takedowns of suspects who resist arrest. I’m fine with that. It’s probably not a bad idea to review and update training from time to time and learn new techniques.
But, to approach this case with the intention of creating a false narrative that promotes your racial extremist ideological beliefs is not only pointless and idiotic, it’s just plain reprehensible. A man has died. And he didn’t have to die. This could have all been prevented. Leave your unfounded accusations of racism out of this debate.
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