Will Eric Garner Be a Bipartisan Rallying Cry?

A Staten Island protest held in August over the homicide of Eric Garner. (AP/Craig Ruttle)
A Staten Island protest held in August over the homicide of Eric Garner. (AP/Craig Ruttle)

Body cameras are an encouraging step in helping police officers back up their own statements and keep the general public safe. If Darren Wilson had a body camera on when he confronted Michael Brown, we’d have more evidence upfront how truthful he was being. Later the forensics back up his story, and different witnesses have different stories, but Ferguson is what it is. There have been other unarmed blacks killed by white officers this year, but they didn’t get the reaction that Brown’s death did. One reason? It’s Ferguson, a mostly black city with a mostly white police force. Another may be the over-the-top reaction the police engaged in during the initial protests, when the police ordered the media to turn off their cameras before they started firing tear gas into neighborhoods.

There wasn’t quite the media galvanization when Darrien Hunt was killed. The Utah County attorney’s office did a good job of litigating in the media, putting out info that helped the Saratoga Springs PD and disparaged the character of Hunt. Even though he was killed by being shot in the back, and even though there’s video showing him running for his life from the officers, his death’s been met with a collective shrug. We won’t even bother to put it before a grand jury.

TamirRice
Tamir Rice

Now there’s Tamir Rice, the 12-year-old boy who was shot dead by police when they mistook his toy gun for a real one. They initially testified that he’d been with others and that they ordered him to put his hands up three times before they fired. The video shows Rice was alone, and that he was shot immediately after the police pulled up. That may still go before a grand jury. I’m naively optimistic. After all, the cop that killed him had previously been kicked off the force for “dismal” gun performance.

But the news of the day is Eric Garner, the father of six who was choked to death by NYPD for resisting arrest after they questioned him about selling untaxed cigarettes. This shows that body cameras won’t solve everything. We have the video of him asking the police to not harass him. Then they put their hands on him. Then they put the chokehold on him, which the NYPD banned over 20 years ago. You can hear him say over and over “I can’t breathe” until he can no longer speak. He dies. No indictment. The only person to be indicted? The guy who recorded the video.

538 went so far as to crunch the numbers on why the Staten Island-based Eric Garner grand jury wouldn’t indict.

But this story looks like it’ll be the tipping point. As more people see the video and scratch their heads, maybe some progress can be made in loweringthe amount of cops killing unarmed civilians. To quote National Review’s Charles CW Cooke: “Seriously, can you imagine what Sam F—–g Adams would have said at the news that a man had been killed over cigarette taxes?”

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