Eric Garner: Lack of Indictment Sparks Outrage

Demonstrators took to New York streets after a Staten Island grand jury ruled “no reasonable cause” to indict NYPD Officer Daniel Pantaleo for the chokehold death of Eric Garner.

Pantaleo, a white officer, is released of all charges in the killing of Garner; an unarmed black man whose death was ruled a homicide in July.

The choking, occurring in broad daylight while a bystander caught it on a now-viral Internet video, has echoed through social platforms with Garner’s last words: “I can’t breathe.”  

In August, Ferguson, Mo. police officer Darren Wilson killed unarmed, black teenager Michael Brown in broad daylight; and despite multiple eyewitness accounts contradicting Wilson’s narrative of events, a grand jury failed to indict Wilson.

Garner was being arrested for selling loose, untaxed cigarettes when Officer Pantaleo placed him in an illegal chokehold, and Brown was caught shoving a convenience store clerk and stealing cigars before he was fatally shot – still, no one bats an eyelash about the fact that racism and poverty go hand in hand for the black community.

Expectedly, however, both grand juries’ decisions have incited disappointment and rage from mostly black protestors, who feel the burden of racially charged injustice in the justice system that often fails people of color.

Thousands of protesters are raising awareness about police brutality that harms communities of color. 

The Garner grand jury decision came on the same day that the NYPD, by orders of President Obama, announced plans to have law officers record their operations with body cameras.

Mayor Bill de Blasio said this week that the grand jury decision has created “a national moment of pain, a national moment of grief and searching for a solution.”

The only solution I see is increasing awareness about the history of racism that plagues the lived experiences of my black and brown brothers and sisters.

It is uncommon for either federal or state prosecutors to charge a U.S. police officer for excessive force, even when a death is the result; and even less likely if the victim is a person of color.

The Supreme Court and lower courts affirm that police officers should have wide latitude to use violence to defend themselves. 

But the line between self-defense and the history of violence against black and brown bodies that seem disposable in white America is often blurred.