Archived: How Racism Killed Eric Garner

Daniel Pantaleo’s chokehold helped kill Eric Garner. Stop and Frisk, though supposedly no longer in practice, helped kill Eric Garner.


Racism actually killed Eric Garner.

The confrontation that led to Garner’s death was a part of Broken Windows, the policing policy adopted by the NYPD after a federal judge ruled that the city’s Stop and Frisk program was unconstitutional. Broken Windows is built around the aggressive enforcement of low-level, seemingly insignificant offenses, such as littering or drinking on your stoop.

And just like Stop and Frisk, Broken Windows disproportionately targets Blacks and Latinos.

The policy targeting low-level offenders makes sense for a police department that spent nearly a half-billion dollars targeting Blacks and Latinos for marijuana arrests, even though whites are more likely to smoke it.

Eric Garner’s offense Selling loose, untaxed cigarettes.

In the video taken of his confrontation with police officers, Garner—an unarmed Black man—gets upset over what he calls the harassment of the local plainclothes NYPD officers, including Pantaleo.

“Every time you see me, you want to mess with me,” Garner said to one of the other officers. “I’m tired of it. It stops today.”

That’s when officers moved to subdue Garner, with Pantaleo applying what clearly appears to be a chokehold. As Garner goes to the ground, he repeats over and over that he can’t breathe.

Pantaleo and his partner left the 43-year-old laying lifeless on the sidewalk for nearly seven minutes before EMS personnel placed him on a stretcher and wheeled him away. Officers are heard telling bystanders that Garner was fine. At no time during any of this did Garner receive any medical attention.

Pantaleo—who claimed that he used an approved takedown method, not the banned chokehold move seen on the video—was cleared of any criminal charges by a grand jury late last week, sparking new protests nationwide.

A new USA Today/Pew Research Center poll found that nearly 60 percent of Americans believe Pantaleo should have been charged; only 22 percent agreed with the decision not to indict, a nearly 3-1 margin.

The same poll found that half of Americans support the grand jury that cleared Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson in the shooting death of Michael Brown. The sample group agreed with the no bill by a 50 percent to 37 percent margin.

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