The View From 1776
What’s The Real Deal In Ferguson?
We are confronted with a fundamental Constitutional issue: protecting the rights of individuals against mindless mobs in the streets.
- In a similar case here in NY, a grand jury yesterday failed to bring indictment against a police officer who strangled a black man to death during an arrest for selling cigarettes without collecting the sales tax. The facts of this case are less in doubt than in Furguson because the entire arrest was videoed.
- J. Jay,
Once again, you need to learn to dig deeper before committing to such faulty blame-gaming, and please stop relying on the superficial and highly biased reportage of the MSM (Main Scream Mania). The inbred bias has gotten so bad even tabloids are now regarded more reliable (a sad statement on a once proudly objective profession) than is our MSM.
First, the facts in the two cases are vastly different, making yours a bait-&-switch argument. Where Brown was an imminent threat, Garner was not. Brown was a suspect in a holdup, whereas Garner was caught selling untaxed-cigarettes to willing buyers. Brown made a grab for an officer’s gun, Garner simply resisted arrest. Brown charged his officer with deadly intent. Garner did not and was incapacitated by his own health issues. The New York case and Ferguson are not, therefore, morally equivalent; and should not be so equated in an attempt to make others believe they are. Yours is like equating Abe Lincoln with Adolf Hitler simply because the policies of each resulted in war and death without considering who or what made those policies inevitable or merely lunatic.
Second, it is unclear exactly what happened in New York; and whether the hold used was a true ‘choke hold’ (see http://nypost.com/2014/12/03/cop-cleared-in-eric-garner-chokehold-death/ ) since forensics doesn’t show he was ‘choked to death’. Rather, Mr. Garner appears to have had a history of health problems (mainly overweight and a heavy smoker) predisposing him to breathing difficulty when physically restrained. Thus, it may be his breathing problem was the result of pinning his chest as much or more than choking his throat. Anyone who has ever had to restrain another can tell you it is nigh impossible doing so without exerting some pressure somewhere along the other guy’s airway. Also, the allegation the presumed ‘abuse’ was racially motivated is doubtful (which is what you are here insinuating; why else would you lump the two together?). Given one of the two sergeants at the arrest (while the choking took place) was a black woman who did nothing to stop, modify or discourage the hold used, the racial charge becomes highly suspect (see http://www.thegatewaypundit.com/2014/12/breaking-eric-garner-arrest-death-supervised-by-black-female-police-sergeant/ ). In her arrest report, she states she heard Garner’s breathing complaints, and said of them “The perpetrator’s condition did not seem serious and he did not appear to get worse”, thereby explaining why she and other officers at the scene did not interfere. Obviously, she did not regard the takedown or Pantaleo’s method of subduing motivated by race. Moreover, Mr. Garner was a repeat offender with a history of arrests, who knew officer Pantaleo (from past confrontations), and who, in this instance, resisted arrest. Perhaps, you are of the opinion it was the officer’s fault for arresting Garner against his will? Or, perhaps, you think offenders who resist must be begged to cuff them; else should be allowed to walk away if they refuse. Of course, no mention of such narrative-busting factoids appear anywhere in the MSM coverage (though they report every assertion of racism however strained) any more than they figure in yours, so we shouldn’t be surprised you buy into every allegation of racist plots.
I agree this is a death that should not have occurred. Garner was not a threat to the police, and might have been taken down less forcefully if more of the officers present assisted in the arrest. That, however, puts some of the blame on officers not indicted. Similarly, none of the four medics responding to the scene (prompted by Garner’s breathing difficulty) saw fit to administer CPR or other remedies which might have saved Garner; and were found to be negligent. Doesn’t that mean they share in the responsibility for his death? Some of the culpability also rests with Garner for ignoring his own health problems too long. We expect officers to take note of an arrestee’s condition to avoid situations like this, but Pantaleo, as the officer most directly engaged in restraining Garner was clearly focused on restraining Garner and in preventing his escape. That means he had precious little mental capacity left for judging other things, like Garner’s health. Probably, he also assumed the other officers were in the better position to judge of Garner’s real or feigned condition; and would have been guided by them as to continuing or relaxing his grip. Doesn’t that mean it was the other officers (the ones not indicted) who primarily had that responsibility; and should have been the ones indicted for failing to monitor both Garner and Pantaleo, and/or take the appropriate action when Garner complained? This was especially true of the two sergeants, both of whom had primary responsibility for directing the others, yet were granted immunity in exchange for testimony, thereby shifting responsibility entirely onto Pantaleo.
My principal blame is for a law that compels police officers to arrest people engaged in what ought to be a lawful activity: selling cigarettes. Although harmful, selling tobacco is not regarded unlawful (nor unacceptably harmful) so long as government gets its cut. So, what this death is really about is a tax scheme by government to extort as much as it can from a behavior our society currently regards intolerable, yet was for a very long time tolerated (even encouraged). The movement to ban tobacco did not start with government, but government quickly saw benefits to itself from demonizing without actually curtailing the behavior in order to capitalize on it. This is a policy not really intended to protect the public; it is all about revenue. New York did not persecute Mr. Garner because he was black or that he was peddling a lethally illegal substance, it persecuted him because he cheated them of their cheat. If anyone should be indicted here, it is government (specifically, lawmakers and regulatory political-appointees); not police officers carrying out jobs we (and they) assigned them and in the manner prescribed. Government (and a bunch of behavior-fascists) created this scenario where mere enterprise (a poor man trying to get ahead by supplying the wants of others) is made excessively and unnecessarily ‘criminal’, and spawning a black-market response any fool could have seen coming.
I am not arguing no behavior needs policing; I am arguing this is a case of government overkill (no pun intended) and of greed. As a non-smoker, I wish fewer people smoked. But, as a pragmatist, a libertarian, and a ‘compassionate’ conservative I recognize other people’s inherent right to pollute their bodies (so long as they don’t pollute mine), if that is what they choose to do. I have also seen how futile and cynical it is taxing products like cigarettes and alcohol rather than banning them outright. Banning, at least, provides a level playing field; whereas taxing skews the field and corrupts the very government (and society) policing such matters. Banning also has its problems, but, of the two, taxing corrupts more, perpetuates longer (however much diminished), and results in good guys becoming agents of abuse of the very people they are supposed to protect (from real criminals; e.g., thugs, thieves and killers).
Government is a necessary evil, and that implies the least governance (i.e., that which leaves the people as free as possible to do as we wish) is best. Thus while I understand and empathize with black anger over Garner’s death, I caution they are being misled by professional race-baiters (e.g., Al Sharpton, Chris Matthews, etc.) into reassigning blame to false causalities and scapegoating the innocent. The ones they ought to hound off the stage are the very ones demanding never-ending protest and inciting violence. Hype of this type can only result in more hate, anger and death; and does nothing to alleviate tension, eliminate real racism, or repair relations. It only perpetuates a stereotype of racially-motivated white-dominance and actual abuses that died out long ago simply to keep blacks from ever trusting whites again; of keeping them in thrall to fear. That is done because race-hustlers realize their power stems from keeping others apart and at each other’s throats; and will never allow a color-blind society to come about no matter how hard people of goodwill try to get beyond race. In this, they are no better than white-supremacists of a past era who did much the same thing using similarly demonizing tactics. You, too, are abetting this deliberate blurring of race with tragedy for personal and political advantage; and ought to know by now fanning racial anxiety is the real problem before us; not the minor vestiges of a long chastised and all but dead ‘white-racism’.
You make a number of good points, one of which is central to the case.
And that is that Garner's alleged crime of not collecting a tax on his cigarette sales is a civil offense, and not a criminal offense so that the basis for the arrest in the first place is in doubt. (I do not know whether the New York City police have been instructed to enforce tax laws by arresting people, but if so, that should be clarified to avoid similar events in the future.)
- J. Jay,
What ever happened to innocent until proven guilty? The point which you regard as central to this tragedy is, in fact, peripheral; and tells us nothing regarding the officer’s presumed bigotry, one way or the other. Other facts in this case, on the other hand, strongly indicate race played little to no part in what actually occurred. There is not a shred of evidence of bigotry or excessive force played a part. Given the officers were a) carrying out their assigned duties and b) carried them out in the manner prescribed, there is no call for second-guessing their motives. For all I know, Pantaleo may be hugely bigoted, but that does not matter in the least so long as he met those two criteria; and consistently conforms to those criteria. We cannot rule fevers of the brain nor passions of the heart, and have no right to do so. You liberals have shifted the crusade from stamping out bigoted behaviors to one of stamping out bigotry of the mind, which is both impossible and immoral in any ‘free society’. Or to put this in language easier for you to grasp, you have no right to tyrannize another person’s though processes that way. I may not like a bigot’s views, but I still defend his right to his biases so long as he/she can keep a lid on them. And, that is what the standard should be in Officer Pantaleo’s case; not whether (or not) he pinned Garner while entertaining racially-tinged thoughts about him, but whether his actions can only have been racially and unmistakably driven. I have already put into evidence a black officer was present and nominally supervising Pantaleo, so we can rule out bigotry on that count also.
Garner was not wrestled to the ground because he was a tax cheat or because he was black, he was wrestled to the ground because he resisted arrest. At that point, it does not matter the offense was a misdemeanor or major crime. How many times have you heard of people arrested for resisting after being initially stopped for speeding, littering, indecent-exposure, shop-lifting, or making threats. We used to understand and respect that policemen have a difficult and dangerous job, and we respected them for the sacrifices they make while protecting us. We have lost touch with that simple truth, and that gives agitators like Sharpton the opening they need to drive us apart. The mob now out for police blood have totally lost sight of this, and are more than a little deranged by the agitators among them.
In the last decade, 1501 police men and women have lost their lives in the line of duty, of whom 581 were murdered (shot, stabbed, poisoned, bludgeoned, strangled, or terrorism – see http://www.nleomf.org/facts/officer-fatalities-data/causes.html ). That is 150 officers killed each year. That makes it far more probable Pantaleo would have been killed during this arrest than Garner. More than a few of those officers were killed by offenders you and would likely mistake as non-threatening (police can’t know until it is too late to defend themselves). When a frustrated and/or frightened suspect erupts, it is always sudden and deadly. Any wonder then they err on the side of their own safety when making arrests or approaching any suspicious actor, however unlikely the threat?
Regarding the number of officers it takes to safely take down an detainee, you have it completely backwards (as always). A single officer trying to wrestle down an offender will almost certainly result in injury to the offender, and even more to the officer. Two is better and safer because it gives the officers greater control over the detainee with less need for violence. The higher the officer to arrestee ratio, then, the greater the control and the lower the probability of someone getting seriously hurt. Suspects are also far less likely to resist when greatly outnumbered by police (again, resulting in less injury to the detainee). So, unless the officers are enraged at the guy and totally out of control (as a group, which does not appear to be the case here), it is far less suggestive of abuse that he was taken down in broad daylight by six officers than if he’d been taken down by one or two in some back alley on a dark night.
Your suggestion his case would normally be handled by bureaucrats wielding respectful summonses and follow-on fines is woefully naïve and ludicrous. Clearly, Mr. Garner is street creature without regular employment, someone unlikely to be moved by letters and fines. Did he even have a known address at which to receive such communiques from on high? We don’t know, but I suspect he kept his whereabouts hidden from authorities. After all, this was a repeat-offender who lives half in shadow, and who readily dodged and vanished down rabbit holes whenever threatened. Maybe you would be handled that way for cheating on your taxes, but I know that to be ineffective in handling someone of Garner’s history of run-ins.
- So, because Garner was a "street creature" rather than a well-dressed fellow in a white shirt and tie with a brief case and a fancy address, it was OK for the police to use a different "style" of enforcement for his crime of selling "loosies" without collecting the sales tax?