By Shaun King / Daily Kos
It has been my public and private view for months that Eric Garner’s death was a modern day lynching. The recent decision by a Staten Island grand jury not to indict Officer Daniel Pantaleo in his death only further solidifies this reality.
After officers were cleared in the deaths of John Crawford, Mike Brown, Sean Bell, Amadou Diallo, Ramarley Graham, Kendrec McDade, and so many others, I will confess, forever the optimist, that I still fully believed in my heart and mind that Daniel Pantaleo would be indicted for killing Eric Garner.
Choke holds have been banned by the NYPD since 1993.
The video of Eric Garner being choked to death and saying 11 times that he couldn’t breathe was seen by millions.
His death was ruled a homicide.
Because the entire encounter was recorded, nobody could say that Eric Garner was violent or threatened to run. Neither happened.
The Mayor of New York regularly met with Eric Garner’s family and expressed heartfelt sympathy for their loss and spoke such words publicly.
This time, I believed, as did many, that some type of indictment, ANY type of indictment, for assault or manslaughter, if not for murder, would come down and that the pursuit for justice would continue. In fact, the pursuit for justice in so many cases of police murdering unarmed citizens, like Mike Brown and John Crawford and Kendrec McDade, has been given so little success, that protestors are no longer fighting for guilty verdicts, but just the chance to go to trial to pursue a guilty verdict.
Like those cases, the Staten Island jury decided that Daniel Pantaleo wouldn’t be charged with any crime, of any sort, and a trial for the homicide of Eric Garner wasn’t even necessary.
What then, do those of us who hoped, so strongly, that Eric Garner would get justice, what do we do?
Where do we go?
Who do we turn to?
Feeble though they may be, I’ve given five suggestions below.
- We still have each other.
At a time where it’s easy to lose hope in the system, it’s particularly appropriate to turn to each other. Millions of people across the United States and all over the world hate injustice and are banding together to stand against it. Resist the urge to fixate just on those who advance injustice and focus, when you can, on those you are fighting the good fight daily.
- Protesting is still worth it.
Yes, protests (and protestors) always have an end goal in mind that the protests will somehow influence and improve our justice system. Obviously, that doesn’t always happen. However, and this must be said, protests aren’t just about influencing outcomes, but are about demonstrating to the entire world that you feel so strongly about something that you have let it be known.
Furthermore, acts of civil disobedience, where people sit-in, die-in, block streets, march, and more, make it clear to police and politicians alike that our brothers and sisters will not be killed silently.
- The federal government can still act.
The Justice Department has just announced that they are going to investigate the death of Eric Garner. Federal charges, including the excessive use of force, can still be brought against Daniel Pantaleo and they should.
- Eric Garner’s family can still pursue civil charges.
Of course, no amount of money can bring Eric Garner back, but his widow and his family must be compensated for this outrageous loss. The NYPD has settled over 12,000 civil rights cases over the past few years alone for a total of $428 million. This is a ridiculous volume for any city of any size and every one of those families, I am sure, would much rather have not suffered the abuse than have any type of settlement.
- We can and should fight the long, hard, tedious fight for improved policies, laws, training, and more for every police force in every city in America.
The laws in our country clearly do two things:
- They promote and allow police to act with extreme force.
- They allow police to use extreme force with few consequences.
It just doesn’t have to be this way. Other countries have much smarter and safer ways of apprehending both armed and unarmed suspects and do it with amazing precision.