The New York Times, among others, reports that the Staten Island grand jury has brought no indictment in the Eric Garner case, in which a large African American man resisted arrest and was brought down by multiple cops, as one, Daniel Pantaleo, used a choke hold to restrain him. After saying that he couldn’t breathe, Garner, who was asthmatic, stopped breathing and died
1. I haven’t seen all the evidence, and stipulate that there may be some good reason for the non-indictement that I am not aware of. That aside, however, it certainly seems like this case embodies many of the features that were not present in the death of Michael Brown but that the media and activist narrative attributed to it nonetheless. Garner’s case, in contrast, appears to demonstrate an unwillingness of the law enforcement and justice system to hold police officers accountable for the results of excessive force, even when the result is death.
2. Again, absent some significant evidence that has not been made public, I believe that the video of the fatal arrest, the fact that the choke hold tactic is prohibited by police department policy [ Note: I originally wrote that it was illegal; that was in error, and I apologize for the mistake], and the coroner’s verdict that Garner’s death was a homicide should have been sufficient to mandate the grand jury finding probable cause for at least a charge of negligent homicide.
3. This seems like a result worthy of protest. It is one more reason why activists continuing to use Brown’s death as a rallying point is foolish and wrong. For their purposes, it is a weak case. Garner’s is not.
4, This will not stop activists from associating Garner’s death with Brown’s, and Trayvon Martin too. Do they not know the difference, or just not care? Either way, conflating the two—I am listening to CNN, and heard the two cases paired about 20 times already—will just assist the campaign to misrepresent the likely facts of Michael Brown’s death. The two cases are not connected. There is no inconsistency in the conclusion that the Ferguson grand jury reached the correct decision, while the Graner decision was unjust.
5. Naturally, Eric Holder announced that the Justice Department would investigate for civil rights violations. He continues to be divisive, ridiculous, and to abuse his power. Even the video makes it obvious that the police weren’t trying to kill Garner, and he was being arrested as a legitimate suspect in a crime. Where is the alleged racial animus? Holder’s message is clear: any time a white man (or “white Hispanic”) causes the death of a black man, it is prima facie racism. He is irresponsible.
6. The reasons why the Ferguson incident caused an immediate fervor while the Garner death was localized are all based on optics rather than reason. Garner wasn’t a teenager. He was not initially portrayed in the news media as a harmless, college-bound black youth with a bright future, using a photo that made him look like a character on “Different Strokes.” Garner, unlike Brown, was not left dead on the street waiting for the scene to be processed. No friend of Garner spun an inflammatory tale about the circumstances of his death: there was a video. His grief-stricken mother didn’t make herself the public face of the tragedy. A middle-aged man, Garner didn’t fit the casting requirements: activists wanted a teen, just like Trayvon. And “I can’t breathe!” just isn’t as effective a chant as “Stop! Don’t shoot!”
7. Throwing your hands over your head is also more dramatic and easier to do than pretending to be choked. Does everyone know the joke about why Jesus was crucified rather than stoned to death? Same principle.
8. Reflecting back on my disagreement with Monroe Freedman over a prosecutor’s biases when an officer is facing charges: maybe a special system is called for when cops kill civilians, unarmed or otherwise. The Garner case, though not the Brown case, have me persuaded that one is needed.