Thursday, December 4, 2014

Eric Garner and Daniel Pantaleo: No True Bill

Parents should tell their children to fear criminals and not the police.

Patrick Lynch, President of the New York Police Department Patrolmen's Benevolent Association.

Yeah, well that has been getting a little tougher to do after the last six months, or so.

Back in July, Eric Garner, a nearly morbidly obese African American who suffered from asthma, was allegedly selling individual, untaxed, cigarettes on a street. Apparently it was and is a crime worthy of intense investigation, not to mention incredibly aggressive enforcement. You know, along the lines of a squad of narcs busting a crazed cocaine fiend who is working for the Russian mob.

A group of NYPD officers led by Daniel Pantaleo violently took him down onto the concrete sidewalk during an arrest. In an amateur video which shows the tail end of the incident, Garner is backing away from one cop, while raising his hands and saying something along the lines of, "...get away from me." At almost the exact same moment Pantaleo, who was behind the suspect, wraps his forearm across Garner's throat and hangs on for dear life as the big man first lurches back and then forward to the ground.

At the bottom of the ensuing dog pile you can hear Garner saying, "I can't breathe," over and over as Pantaleo continues to hold on and other officers press down on his head and back.

According to the New York PBA there was never any "choke hold" applied to Eric Garner because, hey, choke holds are against department policy. According to them officer Pantaleo applied a legal "take down move" which is standard operating procedure for NYC police. Despite those reassuring words, everyone who has watched the video immediately steps into that foggy realm known as, the fine line. To say you don't is utter denial of what you're witnessing.

Mr. Garner died shortly afterward. The New York City Medical Examiner ruled his death a homicide. The other day a Staten Island grand jury disagreed and returned a verdict of, "no true bill," which essentially cleared Daniel Pantaleo of any wrong doing.

Crowds of protesters immediately took to the streets. New York City mayor, Bill DeBlasio described the jury's decision as, "one that many in our city did not want."

His statement prompted Pat Lynch to accuse the mayor of throwing the police, "under the bus." It also moved him to say, "We feel badly there was a loss of life, but unfortunately Mr. Garner made a choice that day to resist arrest. The lesson learned should be to comply with police officers even if they feel an arrest is unjust." He went on to add, "You cannot resist arrest because resisting arrest leads to confrontation. Confrontation leads to tragedy."

In other words, do what we say and let us cart you off into a system where the very concept of justice is completely dependent on your ability to afford a competent lawyer--or--we have every right to kill you. Right, that notion certainly must inspire confidence in persons of color.

Of course there are a slew of fairy tales which many in this great land insist on filling their heads with, despite wide spread evidence to the contrary. Not the least of them is you're innocent until proven guilty. Another being everyone gets a fair trial. Such fables are believed mostly by white people because it reinforces their fantasy that the United States is the greatest democracy in the world and every citizen is treated the same.

In the end, no matter what the perspective, everyone here must acknowledge there are a lot of evil people in this nation and too many of them have guns. And--no one will ever be able to accuse the police of having an easy job. However, if we actually believe in America and the freedom we want to think it represents, there are no blank checks when it comes to enforcing the law.

Having a badge doesn't excuse you from choking someone out, or shooting an unarmed kid. Everyone, especially the police, has to be responsible for what they do.

 Hopefully at some point all of us will figure that out.


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