“…bury the rag deep in your face
for now is the time for your tears…”
“The Lonesome Death of Hattie Caroll” Bob Dylan
In circumstances vastly different from the Michael Brown shooting, Eric Garner was choked to death by a Police Officer while a video camera caught every horrific moment. Five or six officers swarm over Garner, and one, Daniel Pantaleo, applies a policy-prohibited choke hold and applies it with conviction, even as Garner pleads “I can’t breathe!” None of the other officers on the scene seem interested in the repeated, desperate gasps, last words of a human being dying by their hands and at their feet.
The details of that video might be clearer to you than me; I’ve only been able to watch it all the way through one time. It is stomach turning, or should be. Unlike Darren Wilson and Michael Brown there are not two “versions” of the story. There is only the video, and it shows Daniel Pantelo killing Eric Garner without cause, in the company of other police officers who had sworn to protect innocent life but who apparently couldn’t recall the oath so close to lunch time.
It is the indifference of the other officers that really sickens the heart.
Just for comparison, let’s look at another video circulating widely. A grainy security camera captures an 18 year old punk on a dark street who passes a young woman carrying an infant. Seizing the opportunity he turns, runs up behind her and kicks her in the back. She falls, protecting her infant, while young Galahad stoops to the ground to steal her cell phone and runs. It is horrible and nauseating. Does sympathy rise in you for the punk? Now, watch the Garner video again and see if any sympathy rises in you for Pantelo and the Do Nothing Choir.
Not needing historical character reconstruction for the cause, Eric Garner seems to have been a genuinely good guy, a father–of six children–and neighborhood peacemaker. A Parks and Rec horticulturist, his most serious crime was selling cigarettes without a tax stamp. No history of violence, no hard drugs. He was, by all accounts, a big, good-hearted working stiff who supplemented a NYC cost of living with a little off the books cigarette business.
Eric Garner should be alive today. He is not, because Daniel Pantelo choked him to death. Without, at this point, legal consequence. This friends, was manslaughter. It is as clear as Oscar Grant’s death at the hands of Johannes Mehserle.
Today, a Grand Jury in Staten Island returned a finding of no true bill, and refused to indict Daniel Pantelo for a murder we all watched happen, in real time and frame by frame.
The enormity of this injustice suggests another Dylan title: Tears of Rage.