What Social Injustice Looks Like: Why The Eric Garner & Michael Brown Cases Were Triggers To a Bigger Problem

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I’ve attempted to avoid this topic for a while, not because we were ignoring the social injustice, but because no matter which way anyone slices it, both the Michael Brown and Eric Garner cases are hot button topics.  At one end we’re talking about the senseless killing of unarmed Black American men by officers of the law.  And at the other end of the argument, both individuals had either previously broken, or were suspected of breaking the law at the time (even though none of the laws broken involved the death or the threatening of life of any individual).

If we were back in the 1900’s, if you were caught stealing, the punishment for that crime would be death.

Don’t believe me?  In the New York Times Online archive, from an article published January 27, 1860, you will find the following:

Death Penalty for Stealing a Pair of Boots.; UNITED STATES CIRCUIT COURT, JAN. 26–BEFORE JUDGE BETTS.

John McCarty, John Geary and Richard Carney, who were indicted for robbing one Francis Williams, one of the ship’s company of the ship Charlotte, of $9 and a pair of boots upon the high seas, pleaded guilty to an assault with intent to rob.

The punishment affixed to the former offence by the statute is death; to the latter, fine and imprisonment.

The jury were discharged for the term.

Note: this was not considered an unusual punishment at the time.

I’m not justifying the killing by pointing this out, I’m highlighting how outdated and backward this sentence is.  In a society where people are numb to the idea of theft (since it’s one of the expected trials of youth), and where our socio-economic standing is reflective of a neo-feudalistic rentier society (which was one of the catalysts of the French Revolution), and injustice at the hands of the law, fueled by politicians paid by special interest groups, you can see why people are angry.

For the sake of this article, I’m going to focus on the Eric Garner case, since I know more about the landscape in regards to that situation.

First thing’s first.  Eric Garner’s death was, in my own opinion, unwarranted.

Based on the video ALONE (which would have been the only credible evidence that should have been allowed, since the actions were based on the situation “at that moment”, and all former information, such as previous arrests, etc were not brought to light until AFTER Mr. Garner’s death.  They should not have been relevant to the case at all, since they were unknown factors.

  1. Eric Garner was clearly unarmed.  He kept his hands open in front of the police officers at all times.
  2. If he was to be arrested for selling “loosies” (individual cigarettes), why did it require 4 police offices to do so?
  3. Mr. Garner did not swing at or threaten any of the officers.
  4. An illegal choke hold was used to incapacitate Mr. Garner and even after he was on the ground, proclaiming he couldn’t breath, the officer continued to choke Mr. Garner until he died.

Those are the facts clearly drawn from the video.

I don’t think people understand the depth of their own prejudices.  In quite a number of people’s opinions, just because Mr. Garner was large and Black, he was instantly labeled as being “threatening”.

Now here is one startling fact most people don’t understand about the practice of law:

You can argue any point and be right.

This is one of the reasons why I chose not to be a lawyer.  Human perception allows us to focus on what we choose to and shade those that we wish not to see.  It’s the same ability that allows formerly abused children to see past their horrific experiences of abuse just to keep sane and how lawyers are able to get murderers acquitted.  Law is not structured, it’s fluid, and is easily tainted by perception, and what was seen cannot be unseen.

Now here’s the molotov cocktail mix

  • Add two cases back to back of police injustice.
  • During one of the most stressful seasons in the year
  • Place that in a city that’s considered one of the least affordable to live in (as mentioned in a recent Gawker article) in an already overpopulated state.
  • Shaken vigorously by groups, including the the United Nations, the National Bar Association, and protesters, young and old, across the country.
  • Light it up with rulings from both cases favoring the police officers – clearly against popular sentiment.

You have the makings of a Malthusian revolt fueled by Rentier Capitalism, sparked by the inkling of a police state, giving birth to a possible dystopian future – think the world in The Hunger Games (talk about life imitating art).

This is what happens when you’re overworked, underpaid, over priced, and mistreat your citizens.  A revolution is coming, folks, if you haven’t realized it yet.


In other words, welcome back to the 70’s.

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

-George Santayana


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