On July 17, Eric Garner, an unarmed black man, was killed by white New York City Police Department officer Daniel Pantaleo, in yet another case of excessive police brutality against a black American citizen. The attack on Garner by Pantaleo was recorded on a three-minute cell phone video by a bystander. The video clearly captures the officer placing Garner, a 350-pound, asthmatic, father of six in a chokehold — a tactic prohibited by the NYPD since 1993 — until he collapses. Garner can be heard yelling, “I can’t breathe!” 11 times during the arrest and eventually died from “the compression of his chest and prone positioning during physical restraint by police,” according to the New York City Medical Examiner’s Office, who later ruled the death a homicide. Somehow, though, on Dec. 3, it was announced that a New York grand jury had decided not to indict Pantaleo for his actions.
There’s not a lot left to say about this incident that does not already speak volumes for itself. Although some perceive that Garner was resisting arrest, he displayed no aggressiveness toward officers. Regardless, Pantaleo violated an NYPD code that ended up killing a man whose family was financially dependent on him, and the whole occurrence was filmed, leaving zero necessity for possible contradictory witness testimony.
We are shocked, angered and saddened about this grand jury’s verdict, and we once again conclude that this is another case of unjust racial profiling by the U.S. criminal justice system.
Thousands of protesters across the nation, including in Davis and Berkeley, have taken to the streets in the form of rallies, “die-ins” and vigils to voice their anger over the Pantaleo verdict. These protests have been all-encasing in highlighting the many examples of racial inequality against black Americans in the criminal justice system and excessive police violence toward marginalized communites, including (but not exclusive to) the recent lack of indictment of Darren Wilson in the murder of Michael Brown and the shooting of 12-year-old Tamir Rice by Cleveland police officer Timothy Loehmann. We, of course, support peaceful protests across the nation and believe justice has yet to be served for Garner, Brown and many other black lives that have been taken at the hands of racism in America.
On a final note, while deciding to write this editorial, we were left speechless and initially unable to decide on how to address such a tragic and blatantly-prejudiced incident, especially after having just expressed our disappointment towards the Wilson verdict. The fact that we are still fighting for basic humane treatment of black Americans today by the criminal justice system disheartens us immensely and only further proves that we do not live in an equal society. We hope that this nationwide movement will continue, strengthening much-needed conversation about the U.S.’s racial climate and ultimately leading to necessary changes in the way law enforcement officials assert their agency and power. We should not have to remind our criminal justice system that black lives matter. This should be common sense.
Graphic by Jennifer Wu