They are killing us like dogs in the street. Who are us? Black people. Who are they? Cops. A week ago today, the nation was drawn into spontaneous protests when the world received news of the decision of a Ferguson grand jury to not indict Darren Wilson, a white cop, for shooting an unarmed Black teen half a dozen times. The shocking lack of justice and the lack of empathy for the victim, his family, friends, and neighbors has roiled social media and dominated most of the news since last summer. Both Amnesty International and the United Nations have condemned the actions of the Ferguson PD in their attempt to suppress dissent and the subsequent coverage by an outraged citizenry.
But the outrage wasn’t confined to Missouri. The death of Mike Brown and the injustice of the local criminal justice system sparked a resurgence in activism the likes of which we haven’t seen in recent times. Scenes of demonstrations in Oakland, LA, Toronto, London, Boston, DC, Chicago, and New York were captured and posted to Tumblr, Twitter, and Instagram. Through these outlets, and the websites of big city daily newspapers – not cable or network news – I have witnessed the early stages of an awakening. It hasn’t come at a minute too soon.
Less than an hour ago, through my Facebook newsfeed, we have discovered that Eric Garner, another Black man, who fell victim to the lethal force, of the police, of another district has also been murdered in vain. New York area news outlets have reported that a Staten Island grand jury has returned a bill of no indictment in a case that was captured on video and uploaded to You Tube.
We all saw it: a large and asthmatic Garner was surrounded by nearly half a dozen uniformed cops who were attempting to arrest him. When he refused to cooperate, one of the cops jumped on him, applied a chokehold (a procedure that had been outlawed by NYPD since ’92), forced Garner’s head into the sidewalk and squeezed the life out of Eric Garner while he clearly, repeatedly, yelled, “I can’t breathe.” The Staten Island coroner declared that the cause of death was murder.
Garner had had a history of multiple arrests for small-time offenses and had had enough of what he obviously viewed as harassment at the hands of local police. I can see the social media response now; he was a thug, he shouldn’t have resisted, he should have been at work at that time of day, Blacks are killing each other anyway. Figures of respect and admiration will call for reasoned and peaceful responses, and someone will bring up the high numbers in Black on Black crime. Few if any will mention that police should be held to a higher standard of accountability than private citizens and that most whites are killed by other whites too.
Garner was a father and a husband. In addition to his family never sharing another holiday with him, like Leslie McSpadden, Mike Brown’s mother, they now have to cope with the news that their loved one’s murder was not a prosecutable offense. That the system supports and encourages racial profiling, the use of extreme and lethal force, and will not bring police to justice if they have Black blood on their hands. Cops are getting away with state sanctioned murder. Be warned, I am not the only one who is angry about it. Don’t be surprised if other people like me bring the search for justice to your front door.