The lonesome death of Eric Garner
by Harry Siegel
When men are treated like pieces of meat by cops and medics, trust erodes
NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
Wednesday, December 3, 2014, 6:36 PM
It’s the second Eric Garner video that made me cry. Not the one where Officer Daniel Pantaleo chokes Garner for 15 seconds before smashing his head into the sidewalk for 10 seconds as other cops hold down and cuff Garner, ignoring the pleas he issued with the last air in his lungs: “I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe.”
It’s the video shot minutes later as Garner lies dying among men and women in uniforms, men and women who seemed not to give half a damn, that broke me down. Here’s the scene:
Garner had a heart attack in the ambulance, and died.
As he lay dying, he was treated like a piece of meat. By Pantaleo. By the other cops on the scene. Even by the medical technicians. Had Garner been treated with basic human dignity after he was violently, and needlessly, taken down, he might not be dead.
I’m no lawyer, but this is section 125.15 of New York’s penal code: “A person is guilty of manslaughter in the second degree when: 1. He recklessly causes the death of another person.” So I’m stunned, and saddened, by a Staten Island grand jury’s decision to level no charges against Pantaleo.
Anyone unsure why so many people of color are upset with the police, and suspicious of the American justice system, put your politics down, open your eyes and watch the videos. There’s more to be said on another day about broken-windows policing.
Garner was known to cops for selling loose cigarettes, though he wasn’t doing that when he was arrested and killed.
There is also more to be said about the dishonesty or intellectual confusion of activists, protesters and politicians who often appear to view cops as the only real criminals. But fear of police and lost faith in justice are real, corrosive forces.
That fear makes decent people of color feel that society places a lower value on their lives. It makes parents and their children fear the very people who are supposed to be protecting them. Good policing demands community buy-in, so perception itself matters. And that fear is not only in people’s minds. Just open your eyes and watch the videos.
|"I can't breathe." Eric Garner's last words.|
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