“We Can’t Breathe”

Times Square protestFor the second time in two weeks a grand jury has refused to indict a police officer involved in the needless death of an unarmed Black American male.

Two weeks ago a grand jury decided not to take any action against Officer Darren Wilson who shot and killed Michael Brown on the streets of Ferguson, Mo. It was an unusual hearing with many blatant irregularities that called the entire judicial process into question and kept justice from being served.

Then on Wednesday of this week a grand jury in Staten Island, N.Y. decided not to pursue charges against Officer Daniel Pantaleo in the death of Eric Garner. A video, now widely circulated, clearly showed the officer holding Garner in an illegal chokehold and disregarding Garner’s pleas saying, “I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe.”

New York protestsTo these two deaths, we can add many others:

Twelve year old Tamir Rice who was gunned down on sight by a police officer two weeks ago while playing with a toy gun in a park in Ohio.

John Crawford III who was shot on sight in August while holding a packaged BB gun in a Walmart store near Dayton, Ohio.

Levar Jones who was shot by a trooper without provocation in his car for a seat belt violation in Columbia, S.C.

And the list goes on and on. These are not isolated incidents. An analysis of FBI data shows that

White officers kill black suspects twice a week in the United States

In addition, the ACLU has documented a disturbing pattern in which

SWAT teams and other heavy-handed tactics are much more likely to be used against minority suspects than white ones

I have commented on the scope of this targeting of minorities by police in other posts

4 Disturbing Revelations in the Wake of Ferguson

Still Waiting for Justice in Ferguson and Beyond, and

[5 More Revelations Following Ferguson], so will not go into further detail here.

We should note that this blatant miscarriage of justice in now receiving international attention. In August, the U.N. Committee on the elimination of Racial Discrimination urged the U.S. to halt the excessive use of force by police in dealing with racial minorities. And last week the U.S. Committee Against Torture harshly criticized the U.S. over “police brutality and excessive use of force by law enforcement officials.”

With such widespread and persistent abuse of police authority in the U.S. the real casualty is not just the racial minorities who are targeted, but Justice itself.

Justice - I can't breatheWhen I was a kid growing up in the U.S. I would recite the Pledge of Allegiance every day in school:

I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and to the Republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible. with liberty and justice for all.

These days the last part of that pledge rings rather hollow.

Photo credit: Julia Cortez/AP

About politspectator
Edward Clayton grew up in the US but has lived in Canada for the last 4 decades. He is a long time peace activist and committed to issues of social justice and good government. He reports on Canadian, American, and global politics from a Canadian perspective.

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