Eric Garner

At this point, my one question is: again? Why do these situations keep occurring? Sometimes I think to myself, why do we have a justice system that keeps failing us? Another victim dead, another authority figure left unscathed. But this is not the first time, so that brings into question the system we currently have set up.

I posted a video above but in it you see Eric Garner initially talking to the police. Clearly he is frustrated and feels constantly victimized by the police force that frequents the area, and he has a right to be. Garner repeatedly states, “I am minding my business officer.” Initially there was speculation that the officers were there because Garner had broken up a fight. However, one of the police officers approaches the camera and clearly states that it had nothing to do with the fight. So then the question arises: why did they grab him in a chokehold? Why is he dead? From the sources I read, his apparent crime was selling cigarettes without paying taxes on them. Was that the real reason that they put him in a chokehold? Probably not. This appears to me to be another case of a police officer showing his authority, displaying dominance, instilling fear.

Another big question that arises from this case is the use of the chokehold. The Staten Island police district banned the use of the chokehold! So not only did this officer kill a man, but he also did so using a practice that is not allowed. And yet, the jurors did not believe that the chargers were appropriate. WHAT? I am honestly at a loss for words. Nothing can mask my disappointment.

But really, why again? Why does this keep happening? We need to change our system.

4 thoughts on “Eric Garner”

  1. Like Delphine, I am extremely disappointed in the outcome of the Eric Gardner case. This is a case where there is actually a video depicting the situation being debated over- Officer Daniel Pantaleo using the chokehold on Eric Gardner as he struggles and says “I can’t breathe”. What I don’t understand is how the grand jury did not think this merited a criminal trial. The jury was half Caucasian, with the other half divided between African Americans and Hispanics. The entire jury must agree on a decision; based on the decision that the jury reached, I wonder how the evidence was presented on both sides. Could the situation have been skewed? Having watched the video, I feel that it is absurd that the jury did not feel this deserved a criminal trial. The video clearly shows that Eric Gardner was being nonviolent towards the police, and asking them to stop bothering him, saying that he hadn’t done anything and was minding his own business. Also, Pantaleo used the chokehold on Gardner, which is a move that is prohibited by the New York Police Department. Although he is facing some repercussions in the police department, Pantaleo is hardly being affected, compared to the pain that Gardner and his family are now going through. The outcome of this situation also makes it seem as though the United States is doing a poor job of addressing the role of racism. Many people want to disregard the role of race in police brutality, and claim that we are now in a colorblind society. The role of race was overlooked in Mike Brown’s case, and I personally know many people who adamantly claim that Brown would have been treated the same way, even if he was white. Similarly, people claim that Gardner’s case had nothing to do with the fact that he was African American. I wonder what the situation would have been played off as if there was not a bystander recording Gardner’s interaction. I think the case would have been presented as Gardner being uncooperative with the police, and his death would not have caused as big of an uproar as it has. Since there is now video evidence of the interaction, people cannot claim that Gardner’s actions warranted the outcome. I feel that we cannot truly address the issue of racism in America if people aren’t willing to have an honest conversation about it and admit that racism still exists. Without politicians and the government stating that race is still an issue in America, the cycle will continue.

  2. I would have to agree with everything that Delphine said, and I would like to come out and say that I had not really heard much about this case until the ruling came out that the police officer that put him in a chokehold was let off with no charges. I don’t know much about the law or how courts/juries operate, but I do know that the video that I have just seen is very shocking and disheartening. The most striking thing to me was how outraged Mr. Garner seemed, saying that the police officers were continually harassing him. The man with the video camera (his brother?) stated that they were harassing him and trying to arrest him because he broke up a fight, a very noble thing to do. Upon seeing how Mr. Garner acted, in protest of what was occurring, I saw him as a sort of hero. Finally someone was standing up for themselves in a nonviolent way against the police in a case that seemed to be blatant racial profiling (it especially seems to be this way since Mr. Garner stated that this had not been the first time that the officers had tried to arrest him). He saw something wrong with the system, just as Delphine pointed out in her post, and decided to take peaceful action about it and draw attention to the situation because it was simply morally wrong. The officers really do never justify why they were “harassing” Mr. Garner, at least on camera they do not, so in my eyes there was no reason for them to be talking to him in the first place. Usually I try and look at situations like these without bias: it is a video taken out of context, where the viewer only sees an argument that has already been started. Also, whoever was filming the scene was providing comments in Mr. Garner’s favor, having the audience clearly side with him. However, in this case I obviously do side with Mr. Garner and the man filming the scene. What occurred was strictly wrong and the officer who choked Mr. Garner along with the officers who let it happen should be punished in some way, shape, or form. Would I consider this to be police brutality? I certainly would, and I would also consider it to be profiling. If Mr. Garner had truly just broken up a fight, he would have had to have used some sort of force to do so, which was probably picked up by the police as an act of aggression wrongly. I believe that it is a shame that the officer used that tactic to calm Mr. Garner, it is a shame that he passed, and it is a shame that they approached him in the first place.

  3. I think most of what could be pointed out in this has been pointed out. To answer some of your question, based on my opinions, as I’ve toiled with a lot of them in my mind, I think these situations keep occurring, and the justice system keeps failing us, because we hold no value in this system. This system was not put in place with brown and black bodies in mind, and even today, most minority populations are isolated in some of the poorest communities. The phrase ‘out of sight and out of mind’ is how everyone who loves to tout how colorblind they are deal with racial and economic disparities. When it does reach national news, they are shocked and appalled that this could happen in their country, in this day in age, but for far too many people, none of this is shocking.

    Eric Garner was selling loose/single cigarettes without paying taxes, however, that does not justify choking him to death. Even among his vocal cries that he couldn’t breathe, the officer persisted. Even as more officers surrounded him, none of them stopped the madness, the officer persisted. Even as the individual filming shot the incident on his camera phone, the officer persisted. I do not think it is the case of instilling fear or asserting dominance at this point, it is cold blooded murder of a life whose net sum you equate to $0. The killing of a man you feel the world will not miss, and therefore, you will not be punished. Because no one cries over the ants they kill.

    Yes, the chokehold was definitely illegal! The coroner ruled it a homicide, and yet the grand jury did not indict. I have come to believe that it is for the reason I continue to state. That they find that his life holds no real value and they would rather uphold the order and general belief of the police as the moral good, who ‘make mistakes’ then people who go out of their way to make the lives of other citizens miserable or worse… That is the unfortunate part to me, we are the ants. Not because we actually are smaller, or inferior, because people perceive us as thus. We are viewed the schodinger’s cat of race relations and perspectives. We are seen as ‘superhuman’ in the worst ways, and yet we are viewed as sub-human at the same time. Unable to feel pain, can withstand bullets, yet aggressive, violent, with the tendency to act on animalistic instincts. It feels as though we aren’t allowed or expected to feel pain, but when we do, we are being too sensitive and too loud about our feelings. It’s suffocating and stifling in ways that makes the last words of Mr. Garner even more haunting. We truly can’t breathe.

    The change we need in this system needs to happen on not only a political and social level, but also a psychological and mental level.

  4. The main reason that this keeps occurring is because as we have seen in our class this semester, our system is broken. It is broken in the sense that authority enjoys showing its power over what to them appear as a “lesser” person. It is saddening to see that people keep dying every day because an officer felt it was his duty to show them who has the power. What is even more disgusting though is that police officers commit these inhumane acts yet they are not punished for it in the court of law. And again it has to do with our broken system and the injustice of the court towards minorities. What is most concerning is the fact that people feel that we now live in a colorblind era and therefore do not want to recognize that racial injustice is being committed. Even when there is evidence such as this video people are blinded by their own ignorance and simply reply “he must have done something to deserve that because we aren’t in a racist time anymore”. Since the people doing the injustices now have a uniform, people feel that the choices they make are just without question. The fact that a police officer can use an excuse such as not paying taxes on cigarettes to justify himself choking and eventually killing Garner is concerning but what is even more disturbing is the fact that the courts accept such an explanation and don’t think twice about how the family of Garner is feeling knowing their loved one is deceased. It is sad to see that the jury didn’t feel Garner was an important enough person to keep his life. It is only with activism that change to the system can be made. Over the past few days Emory has been protesting over the injustices of deaths of black people in the hands of the police. With protest like these, it is hoped that our system can recognize that it must change because its injustices will no longer be tolerated. The only way that the system can change is by changing it ourselves. It is in a time like this when the question what will we do with the knowledge we gained from this class must be asked. We know there is a major issue going on right now and what will we do to change it? Will we share our knowledge and help the cause or keep quiet and hurt it?

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