Eric Garner, Michael Brown: Further Discourse on the Rule Of Law (2014)

It ain’t no use, no one can stop them now. Total destruction the only solution.

Soon after St. Louis County Prosecutor Bob McCulloch read the Ferguson Grand Jury Decison on November 24, 2014, President Obama called an impromptu press conference at the White House.

In an effort to dissuade angry protesters from looting, rioting and assorted mayhem, Obama told a beleaguered populace that the U.S.A. is a nation built on the “rule of law.”

So while a police officer (Darren Wilson) killing an unarmed teenager (Michael Brown) was within the confines of the American “rule of law” as determined by the grand jury and the St. Louis DA office, the resulting destruction of property by angry protesters was unlawful.

Much ado was made by many pundits and political figures about the carnage that came on the heels of a largely unpopular decision by the Ferguson grand jury. There were conflicting eyewitness accounts of the Brown shooting and Wilson’s testimony was ultimately the prevailing narrative.

While many saw that decision as a miscarriage of justice and proof positive to the failings of the U.S. Judicial System, despite outrage and frustration, many freedom fighters were prepared to move on and draw a line in the sand for the next grand jury decision in the Eric Garner case.

The Garner case had been bubbling since the summer but was overshadowed by the Brown case for any number of reasons. According to the New York City Medical Examiner’s office, Garner had died as a result of “compression of the neck and chest, along with Garner’s positioning on the ground while being restrained by police during a July 17 stop on Staten Island” (NBC New York). The coroner ruled Garner’s death a homicide and there was video evidence taken by a bystander.

In a nation governed by the “rule of law,” surely there were consequences for NYPD’s handling of the Garner “arrest,” ostensibly for the sale of untaxed “loose cigarettes.” Specifically, for Officer Daniel Pantaleo, who had applied a chokehold to Garner during the arrest and who had also pinned Garner’s head to the sidewalk with his knee.

Garner was vocally combative towards the NYPD but, as the video demonstrates, put his hands up once the officers descended to handcuff him. This was not a violent, “stoned” teenager reaching for an officer’s weapon and initiating a physical confrontation. Garner, overweight and asthmatic, posed no immediate physical threat to the arresting officers.

On December 3, 2014, a Staten Island grand jury decided not to indict Officer Pantaleo on any charges in Garner’s death (ruled as a homicide by the coroner). Troubling as the decision was, equally disconcerting was the backlash to how this decision was negtively received by various elements, secular and otherwise.

The ho-hum twisted rational of these voices (Rudy Giuliani, for one)—their sheer defiance in defense of a leaky system is appalling. Refusing to see the arrogance of resting on “American ideals,” which are slipshod at best throughout history, is troublesome.

Our checks and balances are off-kilter, and have always been disproportionately applied throughout American history. The symbiotic relationship between District Attorneys and police cannot be disrupted by such trifles as justice, fairness and basic humanity.

Protests remain ongoing and as much as the status quo rallies around the “best criminal justice system in the world” (as promoted by such CNN analysts Mark O’Mara and Paul Callan, WREG), clear-thinking individuals point to systemic racism and America’s so-called “original sins” as the root issues at stake here.

When will America’s “rule of law” become anchored to the notion of blind justice?

-M.F. DiBella

Featured image courtesy of WTAE.

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