Yet Another Christmas Story

Yet Another Christmas Story

New York Times, Dec. 3, 2014

A Search for Justice in the Eric Garner Case

By The Editorial Board

The Staten Island grand jury must have seen the same video everyone else did: the one showing a group of New York City police officers swarming and killing an unarmed black man, Eric Garner.

Yet they have declined to bring charges against the plainclothes officer, Daniel Pantaleo, who is seen on the video girdling Mr. Garner’s neck in a chokehold, which the department bans, throwing him to the ground and pushing his head into the pavement.

The imbalance between Mr. Garner’s fate, on a Staten Island sidewalk in July, and his supposed infraction, selling loose cigarettes, is grotesque and outrageous. Though Mr. Garner’s death was officially ruled a homicide, it is not possible to pierce the secrecy of the grand jury, and thus to know why the jurors did not believe that criminal charges were appropriate.

What is clear is this was vicious policing and an innocent man is dead. Another conclusion is also obvious. Officer Pantaleo was stripped of his gun and badge; he needs to be stripped of his job. He used forbidden tactics to brutalize a citizen who was not acting belligerently, posed no risk of flight, brandished no weapon and was heavily outnumbered.

Any police department that tolerates such conduct, and whose officers are unable or unwilling to defuse such confrontations without killing people, needs to be reformed. And though the chance of a local criminal case is now foreclosed, the Justice Department is right to swiftly investigate what certainly seem like violations of Mr. Garner’s civil rights.

Mayor Bill de Blasio and Police Commissioner William Bratton responded quickly to Wednesday’s development, as they did in July, when anguish and anger flared. Mr. de Blasio went immediately to Staten Island to meet with elected officials, clergy members and other community leaders, and he issued a statement urging that New Yorkers outraged by the grand jury’s failure express themselves in peaceful ways.

Protests in New York City on Wednesday unavoidably echoed those in Ferguson, Mo., where an officer escaped indictment for fatally shooting Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager. Protesters in both places have every right to deplore both outcomes, as well as the appalling frequency of fatal encounters between black men and the police.

New Yorkers, at least, have a mayor and Police Department that have not fully squandered their credibility with the public. Mr. de Blasio’s and Mr. Bratton’s vows to retrain the police force top to bottom in defusing conflict, to reduce unwarranted arrests and restore community trust, remain credible, if far from fulfilled.

Those who seek justice should remain hopeful, if skeptical and wary. Indeed, if not for a bystander with a cellphone, the police officers’ version of events would have been the prevailing one: that Mr. Garner “resisted arrest” and had to be subdued.

Mr. Garner, who was 43, and left a wife and six children, cannot speak for himself. But the video, at least, speaks for him. It’s a heartbreaking, damning exhibit, showing Mr. Garner’s final moments alive, and his final words: “I can’t breathe.”

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Published in Senior Chatters


  1. nmod

    This is too hard to read! ,I’m sorry Laurie …I wish I could comment on it ..but after the first paragraph I had to stop . I can’t read anymore ,it hurts to much ! I think it must have triggered something from my childhood …I don’t know 🙁

    1. laurie Post author

      I’m very sorry it upset you Nmod and I did have qualms about posting this but after much thought decided the issue was simply too important to ignore.

  2. powderpuff

    I also didn’t read it all, but I had just seen it on our tv news in new Zealand and had said to my partner that the police in America seem to go to extremes to arrest people. straight after they had on the boy whom the police shot who had a false gun. how did they think a child was such a danger. I just cant understand it,

  3. Gael

    This case and the result shows clearly that this man was the victim of undue force and that there is no culpability being proclaimed is outrageous.

    You can hear him saying he can’t breathe when he’s held by the choke hold and the guy died as as a result of the treatment he received.

    Will be interesting to see how the eastcoast protesters respond and what the results will be.

    Humans can’t have their rights trampled on like this. The world is watching.

  4. patak

    It be presumptuous as a UK citizen to comment on what appears to be an act of brutality by an over zealous officer. However it seems that police forces both in the USA and the UK have lowered their standards of recruitment leading to employment of what can only be described as thugs. I am saddened by this because there are many hard working and honest police officers who now have to pick up the pieces of such events and must question whether they should remain police officers.
    We in the UK have experienced similar acts of brutality and have seen officers being untruthful about what actually occoured. In some ways the rise of mobile phones with video allows us the public to see what happened. A society which loses trust in it’s police will ultimately lead to anarchy as witnessed in the UK during the riots in London, much of the rioting was not as the result of the killing of a black man but to loot and cause chaos. Returning to the events in N.Y. the officer was responsible for the death of another and while it was not premeditated it was what we here call manslaughter. He should have been charged and tried for that offence. The grand jury system operated in the USA is not something I am totally familiar with but to an outsider it’s appears a little bizarre. If there is evidence of an offence being committed then charges should be laid. Think I have said enough on this subject. Ty Laurie for highlighting this. Pat

  5. watergypsy87

    Thanks for this Laurie……….as a UK citizen like Patak.
    Patak’s reply has summed it up perfectly.

  6. Gael

    They just can’t seem to get it right. Here from what I’ve observed in N Ireland, the police tend to be impotent and ineffecutal. In the US it’s too often the opposite and it’s overkill with undue force being used.

    A middle ground is needed.