By Anthony McClean, Editor In Chief Emeritus NEW HAVEN (BASN) —...
Black husband and father choked to death by NYPD officers
by Rashard Robinson
Eric Garner — a Black Staten Island husband and father — was violently choked to death by New York City Police Department (NYPD) officers last week and the entire brutal altercation was caught on tape. Garner can be seen in a video that has since gone viral, screaming out in pain, “I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe”.1 And now, a second video has surfaced showing NYPD officers and 4 Emergency Medical Technicians (EMT) ignoring the 43-year-old as he lay dying.2
Garner wasn’t given proper medical attention. Neither the officers nor the EMTs performed CPR. They all just watched him die.3
Four of the EMTs have since been suspended without pay.4 Officer Daniel Pantaleo — who administered the deadly and illegal chokehold — has been placed on modified desk duty.5 And both the NYPD and Staten Island District Attorney’s office have launched investigations.6 But this is not enough.
If enough of us raise our voices, we can pressure city leaders to start the process of firing all of the officers involved in this devastating police killing, and demand that Staten Island District Attorney Daniel Donovan holds them accountable for this murder. We also need to demand that Mayor Bill de Blasio and Police Commissioner Bill Bratton end their “Broken Windows” policy,7 which encourages the hyper-aggressive enforcement of non-violent minor infractions — or we will continue to see more tragic cases like this.8
The NYPD alleged Garner was selling loose cigarettes.9 But Garner claimed that the police targeted and harassed him frequently in the past.10 In recent months, the NYPD has come under fire for unnecessary police encounters, resulting from Commissioner Bratton’s “Broken Windows” policy. Felony arrests are down, while arrests for violations and misdemeanors for minor offenses — such as performing on the subway, jaywalking, and marijuana possession — are up.11 These types of ineffective and discriminatory policing tactics lead entire communities to be viewed as suspects, and encourage baseless street stops, harassment, and violence which often leads to serious injury or even death.
The NYPD is tasked with serving and protecting, but time and again officers breach the public trust, abuse their authority, and harm or kill unarmed Black and brown New Yorkers with impunity. The long list of unarmed Black and brown folks killed by NYPD officers includes Anthony Baez, Sean Bell, Amadou Diallo, Ramarley Graham and now Eric Garner.12 But this time we have eyewitness accounts and clear videotaped evidence of wrongdoing by officers.
Additionally, there are serious questions as to whether this was even a legitimate arrest and whether there was probable cause to substantiate the allegations of illegal cigarette distribution made by the officers.13 We don’t have all the answers, but it’s clear that no one should be choked to death during an arrest.
New York City Police have been prohibited from using chokeholds for 20 years.14 The NYPD Patrol book makes clear to officers that they can inflict serious injury on a suspect by applying “pressure to the throat or windpipe.”15 But this clear warning hasn’t stopped officers from frequently using the unauthorized and dangerous maneuver to subdue suspects. Since 2009, more than 1,000 New Yorkers have filed formal complaints of officers employing illegal chokeholds.16
In order for these sorts of violent and deadly encounters with police to end, it is critical that all of the officers involved are fired and held accountable by the criminal justice system. It’s also imperative that the Mayor and Police Commissioner do everything in their power to end dangerous and discriminatory policing policies like Stop and Frisk and “Broken Windows.”
Thanks and peace,
– Rashad, Matt, Arisha, Aimée, Jamar and the rest of the ColorOfChange.org team July 24th, 2014
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