Violence isn’t the answer

By The Messenger Editorial Board

Recent civil rights protests in New York have rightfully served as an eye-opener to important race and law enforcement controversies in America. On Dec. 3, a New York grand jury declined to indict Daniel Pantaleo, the police officer accused of choking Eric Garner to death July 17. After the decision, angry protesters took to the streets of Staten Island and surrounding areas to question the action.

Garner was a 43-year-old, asthmatic, black man accused by police of illegally selling untaxed cigarettes. A controversial cell-phone video surfaced in the days following Garner’s death after his encounter with police officers.

The video shows Pantaleo grabbing Garner by the neck and forcing him to the ground with help from numerous other officers. Garner can be heard repeating the words. “I can’t breathe” until he goes limp and an ambulance is called to the scene. Chokeholds are considered illegal in New York since 1993 and are not supposed to be used in a confrontation. However, the grand jury earlier this month said that technically a chokehold was not used on Garner, because there was supposedly no medical evidence of trauma to his neck.

Protests have broken out this year in many places around the country due to alleged police brutality. Ferguson, Mo., has seen clashes between protesters and law enforcement authorities since Michael Brown, a unarmed black teenager, was shot by Darren Wilson, a white Ferguson police officer. According to grand jury testimony, Brown was an alleged suspect in a robbery that night, and when confronted by Wilson, an altercation ensued, and Brown was shot. The St. Louis County grand jury made the decision to not indict Wilson, although the family may still pursue civil action.

Protests following the grand jury’s decision escalated to such a level that Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon called in the Missouri National Guard to aid local officers Nov. 17. More than $4 million in damage was reported to local businesses and property.
Not all protesters are resorting to violence like some in Ferguson. The people of Staten Island have staged peaceful “die-ins,” in which people lay on the ground and simulate that they are dead, refusing to move.

These nonviolent tactics have been getting positive feedback, unlike the riots and destruction seen elsewhere.
In another attempt to get the attention of locals, protesters in New York recently marched onto the Staten Island Expressway, blocking traffic for exactly seven minutes, a symbol of the time they say EMTs at the scene July 17 neglected to provide adequate medical attention to Garner.
The Garner and Brown cases in particular have people wondering if the justice system plays favorites with the law enforcement. The answer may never be clear to us, but what is clear is that many people in America are not happy with the issues raised by these tragic incidents and as Americans, we all have the right opinions. Let’s just do it civilly.