Eric Garner, the latest very large black man to be killed by the police, was a 43 year old father of six with a rap sheet that included 31 arrests. Therein lies the Grand Canyon-sized chasm between white and black America. I don’t know anyone 43 years old who has 6 kids, and I have never been in the presence of a single solitary person who has been arrested 31 times.
We have all seen the video a hundred times by now. There is Mr. Garner resisting an attempted arrest by several NYPD officers, one of whom slips around behind and wraps an arm around his neck wrestling him to the ground. Somewhere in the ensuing melee, Eric Garner breathes his last. Officer Daniel Pantaleo, who administered the chokehold was placed on office duty after the incident, then the case was sent to a Grand Jury for review. Yesterday that Grand Jury acquitted Pantaleo and charged him with…nothing.
What heinous crime was Mr. Garner guilty of? What horrible act was he in the midst of committing that would have justified such a violent apprehension? He was selling loose, unregistered, (un-taxed) cigarettes…loosies. Wait,…what?
You see, in New York City, politicians have declared tobacco to be worse than practically any substance on earth. It has been the goal of the powers that be to eradicate its use both inside and out. To this end they have taxed cigarettes out of reach of most New Yorkers. A pack costs $11.00, half of that price lines the bank accounts of governments from Washington to Albany to New York City. If I didn’t know better I would think that somebody set out to create a black market. “Hey everyone, I know what we should do! Let’s make cigarettes twice as expensive in New York as they are anywhere else in the country. That way, we’ll create a huge incentive for crooks in Kentucky to bring their 4 dollar-a-pack cigarettes up here where they can sell them on the street for 8 dollars a pack. That will save smokers in our city 3 bucks a pack and rob us of revenue while making illegal cigarettes a thriving black market!!”
I’m all for law and order and I generally support the police over perpetually aggrieved race pimps like Al Sharpton, but when I watch the video of Mr. Garner’s final moments on this earth, I can’t help thinking…all of this over selling illegal cigarettes? The NYPD has nothing better to do than go after some 43 year old man selling contraband smokes? Whatever happened to proportionality? How about the punishment fitting the crime?
I would imagine that in a city the size of New York there are probably hundreds of thousands of laws and ordinances on the books. No police force is equipped to enforce them all. Decisions have to be made because of budgetary restraints, prosecutorial discretion must be exercised. We see this all the time. For example, it is illegal for anyone under the age of 21 to consume alcohol in the United States and yet, every Friday and Saturday night on most college campuses, an orgy of law-breaking takes place in full view of the local police. The police decide that there are bigger fish to fry.
For the life of me I cannot understand why the cops in New York City felt compelled to take this type of aggressive approach to apprehending a cigarette salesman. Seriously? How do they actually expect someone 43 years old with 31 arrests to make a living? At least he wasn’t selling black tar heroin to school kids. As parents we pick our battles, we seldom choose to die on the hill of forgetting to make the bed. In the grand scheme of deviance in a city like New York, Eric Garner forgot to make his bed. Now he’s dead.
President Obama has pledged 75 million dollars to outfit police officers with cameras that he says will reduce confrontations. This particular crime was recorded on tape for all to see over and over again on CNN. The result was another acquittal of a police officer accused of murdering a black man. Maybe Pantaleo’s actions didn’t rise to murder. But to be cleared of any wrong doing? Excessive force? Wrongful arrest technique? Anything?On this one, I’m with the protesters.