Thoughts on the Murder of Eric Garner

July 28, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper |


From a Reader:

Here are some thoughts I have after watching the horrifying video of Eric Garner’s murder. I was re-watching the first section of REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS! where BA talks about the murder of Ramarley Graham and other Black and Latino youth.

What danger did Eric Garner pose? Why did the cops even stop him in the first place? Obviously it is not because selling loose cigarettes is a "menace to society." It was clear from the video that Eric Garner’s very existence was seen to be the "menace," no matter that he had just been instrumental in breaking up a disagreement between people. To the cops, he was an "alien," a disruptive presence to the "smooth functioning of society." This society, and its enforcers, have no place for him and the millions of others like him in America. As he said with his last words, "I can’t breathe." Millions of people like him "can’t breathe" in this country. They are hounded, harassed, jailed, demeaned, discarded. He had no place in this economy—imagine a society where people are reduced to selling loose cigarettes to survive. He called it out—you are going to hassle me, arrest me, take me in for selling cigarettes, "Are you serious?" Unfortunately, they were serious, deadly serious. They have no place for him on the very streets where he lived—and died.

Obama and many—all too many—others talk about how the problem for African-Americans is absent father figures. But here, by all accounts, was a man who was a loving father. It is like they are doing a magic trick—"watch my right hand" waving around "responsible fathers" while their left hand has got the knife—or the chokehold—ready to commit murder while you are distracted by the bullshit.

While it might not have been planned to be this way, I don’t think it was entirely accidental that they killed him in broad daylight in front of many people, several of whom who were videoing the murder. There is a way that doing this is an effort to make people feel powerless, passive, horrified but shamed. Once Eric Garner was on the ground—the dehumanization by the cops intensified: mashing his head against the sidewalk, continuing the chokehold, swarming him, and then after he is clearly still, poking him periodically, wasting precious minutes—looking around pretending to be doing something, pretending to give a fuck what happens to this human being you just participated in murdering.  

By standing up, refusing to go along with this now, all of this can be thrown back into their face, turned into something that gives people’s anger more power and impact. Next time, and there will be a next time unfortunately, imagine how things might be different if people had encircled this scene, blowing their whistles, letting the cops know that not only are we watching, but we are going to DO something about this!

Eric Garner’s last words before he was smashed against the sidewalk were, "It stops today." People are taking this up as a chant on the streets in Staten Island. These horrors do have to end. The deep anger is there, the knowledge that it could be them thrown down to the street, but people need a way to act, to make their resolve real. This is what the Month of Resistance is giving voice to as a powerful concentration of resistance in and of itself, and as part of the preparations for revolution which is necessary in order to sweep all of this aside, to change everything. We have to let people know about this, bring them into this in all the ways we can, all their ideas about how to make this as powerful and widely felt as possible.

We say NO MORE! This must STOP! Make October the Month of Resistance the beginning of a movement to bring about the end of mass incarceration.

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