As was the case with the Ferguson ruling, the Staten Island grand jury’s decision is painful and disturbing proof that an unjust and biased legal system persists in our country and in our city in ways that jeopardize the lives and well-being of people of color every day.
“Black Lives Matter.” “No Justice, No Peace.” The signs say. These words are beyond mere slogans, but deeply felt truths that will compel New Yorkers to march and protest in the days and weeks to come. Our politicians and leaders must pay heed to these messages, but also to these specific points:
- The chokehold that killed Garner was illegal in that it obstructed his ability to breathe and led directly to his death.
- As seen from the video, Eric Garner was peacefully resisting with his hands in the air. He backed away from the arresting officer just as another officer, Daniel Pantaleo, jumped him from behind and choked him to the ground.
- The concern and outrage that people are expressing in NYC, Ferguson, and elsewhere are driven not only by the perceived injustice of the grand jury’s decision but by the widely held understanding and knowledge that this outcome is not aberrational but emblematic, and a continuation, of a long-standing and all too recent history of black men dying at the hands of police officers who face no consequences for their deadly actions.
The people marching are frustrated and angry not just about the unpunished egregious violence of the police, but also by the daily and unjustified harassment and targeting of mainly low-income people of color that officers carry out under the cover of such harsh and aggressive law enforcement theories as Broken Windows and Zero Tolerance policing.
The calls for calm by political and civic leaders will continue to fall on deaf ears until people, especially persons from the directly affected communities, see convincing evidence that our society and government and their representatives will no longer promote, condone, or engage in unfair and abusive policing in all its forms.