July 23, 2014

I can't breathe

That phrase - "I can't breathe" - has become a rallying cry against police abuse in NYC. I'm sure you've seen the story on the news. Eric Garner was simply engaging in a common poverty-economy practice -- selling single cigarettes to earn a few bucks -- when the police attacked him and caused his death.

I hope you've seen the video. (I've embedded it below.) You can clearly hear Mr. Garner saying, "I can't breathe! I can't breathe!" as the police continue to hold him by his neck and put pressure on his chest. They killed him. There's no two ways about it. And for what? For selling loose cigarettes, as thousands of people do every day in NYC? That's a crime that deserves the death penalty?

I thought about Eric Garner yesterday as I suffered my second attack of being unable to breathe. It's only happened twice to me and I don't know what causes it. It's terrifying. It's as if my lungs cannot use the air, as if there's no oxygen in it. And it makes me feel desperate and wonder if I'm going to die.

My second attack happened outside a medical clinic, as I was on my way to an allergy doctor to find out why this happens to me. And as soon as someone realized I couldn't breathe, a "code yellow" was called and five medical professionals rushed toward me with a wheelchair, oxygen, etc. They put me on a machine to help me breathe and within an hour I felt fine.

But all the while, I heard Eric Garner's voice saying, "I can't breathe! I can't breathe!" I couldn't help but contrast the comforting response of the people around me, with the callous and inhumane actions of the police and EMS staff who surrounded Mr. Garner and simply watched him die.

Eric Garner is black and I'm white. And he was unlucky enough to have this happen while he was surrounded by NYPD officers who didn't give a damn whether he lived or died. They're not only the police -- they're the new militarized version of the police that has cropped up in NYC since 9/11. These officers see civilians as the enemy. And apparently you don't help the enemy, especially if he has brown skin.

It's so wrong. I'm fine today and Eric Garner is dead. Why? And if it's just his race, then we are not living in a civilized country. We're all supposed to be equal here. Where were the caregivers to help this man? Why did EMS workers not intercede when they heard his cries for help? And why did the officers not lift themselves off him when they heard he was having trouble breathing? Why?

Something has to change. We are all equal. It's just that some monsters don't recognize this. I don't want people like that to be handed a badge or a medical license. I hope many officers go to prison for a good, long time for what they did  to this man.

And by the way, he was a good man. Everyone says he was a gentle giant who would help anyone with anything. All you had to do was ask. The police murdered a teddy bear, not a criminal. And they should pay for this.

4 comments:

cm said...

It's so depressing to hear this guy pleading like this and a few seconds later he's dead. The whole truth needs to be brought out and like you said all these cops should be held accountable. Unfortunately the only thing internal affairs is really concerned with is how they can spin this to try to justify the offending officers actions. I hope they don't get away with this.

Artichoke Annie said...

This is so sad, there are no words really. The Daily Kos had this to say on the subject:

http://www.dailykos.com/story/2014/07/23/1316066/-Mr-Garner-will-be-buried-today-thanks-to-the-NYPD?detail=email#

Thanks for the post, Keith.

Artichoke Annie said...

"The use of choke holds is not a wide spread problem" said the CBS newscaster.

Oh, great! So let's just sit back and wait until it is wide spread. Works for me as long as the NYPD doesn't have their hands around my neck. Hmmm.

writenow said...

Thanks for commenting, guys. I guess the only good thing here is that a lot of people see it the same way we do.