Eric Garner, Mike Brown, Shut the Whole System Down
On Wednesday evening, in the hours following news that a Staten Island grand jury had refused to indict an NYPD officer in the violent death of an unarmed Eric Garner, hundreds of protesters hit the streets of New York City to decry arbitrary criminal accountability, the longstanding social injustices of police brutality, and pervasive inequities of the American criminal justice system. The ruling came less than two weeks after a separate grand jury in Ferguson, a suburb of St. Louis, Missouri, failed to bring charges in the fatal altercation between Michael Brown, an unarmed African American, and Darren Wilson, a white police officer. Unlike the ambiguities and conflicting testimony in the Ferguson case, which has drawn small-scale riots and widespread media attention in its wake, the deadly assault of Eric Garner was fully captured on video. “There was nothing mysterious about Garner’s death, and nothing just about it, either,” said New York City Mayor Bill DeBlasio.
Eric Garner was accused, then corralled, by a group of police officers for allegedly selling loose, “untaxed” cigarettes. “Please just leave me alone,” he appealed with palms open, hands in the air. A plainclothes policeman in cargo shorts subdued Garner by chokehold (a method banned by the NYPD’s own protocol). He pleaded in his final gasps for life:
“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. I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe.”
The striking first-person account served to transparently adjudicate the facts on the ground; somehow the footage wasn’t enough to bring justice.
Photo essay by Camilo Fuentealba