by Azeezat Fadekemi Sulaiman
Another Grand Jury, another acquittal. What will it take to get justice for black men in America?
A grand jury has cleared a New York police officer over the death of Eric Garner. Garner, an asmathic patient had been standing in front of a store when police officers approached him accusing him of allegedly dealing cigarettes illegally- an accusation Garner denied, asking the officers to leave him alone. Within minutes, he was surrounded by a group of officers who pinned him to the floor as one of them held him in a choke hold as he gasped for breath saying ‘I can’t breathe’.
Garner died on the way to the hospital. His death sparked protests in America after the incident in July this year. Little did the country know that there would be more casualties as a result of police excessive force when dealing with black men. August saw the death of teenager Michael Brown, whose shooting has sent the town of Ferguson into melt down as the whole country joined in the debate about race and equality. It’s almost like being transported back in time.
Since the announcement was made earlier today for no indictment, protesters have been gathering in New York carrying out peaceful demonstrations with many chanting the slogan ‘I can’t breathe’, the last words said by Garner. There are many troubling similarities between this case and that of Michael Brown. Both victims were black, of towering height and both had allegedly or were perceived to have been (according to the Police) dealing with some sort of cigarette and both were unarmed, yet, they were both killed and no charges brought against the officers who were responsible for their deaths.
In the case of Michael Brown, Officer Darren Wilson claimed Brown had assaulted him in his car and he had felt threatened by the teenager’s behaviour. However, in the case of Eric Garner, Garner had actually been walking away when he was pounced on by officers. The whole incident was captured on camera by a bystander who just happened to be recording the unfolding events on his phone. Despite the evidence and the fact that a New York coroner had ruled his death as a homicide, the grand jury still arrived at their conclusion.
President Obama in reaction to the decision chose his words very carefully. This has been a hard time for America’s first black President. If he shows support for the protests, he’ll be seen as taking sides, if he takes no action and sits on the fence, then he’ll be accused of letting his own people down. Obama said in Washington on Wednesday that he wasn’t ‘interested in talk’, but wanted more action to make sure that everyone felt ‘equal’ in America.
With the way things are going Mr President, that may take a long time.