Seeds: One might say it’s startling to find how accustomed we’ve become to hearing about the violence enacted against our fellow citizens by our police force. Many aren’t met with shock anymore when they see yet another viral video of a black man being shot and killed by police. And very few of the officers ever face charges, including situations where the man was unarmed. 90 unarmed people were shot by police officers in 2015 alone. 52 unarmed people have already been shot and killed by police this year.
Core: The death (some would say murder) of Eric Garner was a specifically poignant one. Garner stood on a corner where he was quite often, selling cigarettes (he had been arrested three times in 2014 for selling them without tax) when several officers approached him, trying to detain him as Garner refused. At this moment, Garner was put in a chokehold that the NYPD outlawed in 1993. Garner recited the phrase “I can’t breathe” 11 times until he died on the asphalt. A friend of Garner’s taped the event on his phone, which can be viewed here (warning, graphic content). His repeated use of this phrase struck many, spurring a national movement to end police violence, with members of the Black Lives Matter movement famously wearing “I can’t breathe” t-shirts in protest.
Skin: The list, unfortunately continues to grow. Many argue that this radio broadcaster had it right when he ranted about police violence on air. He essentially argued against the “Blue Wall of silence” which is when police officers refuse to admit that their coworkers actions were unjustified or wrong. The broadcaster argues that in order to stop this cycle of mistrust, police officers need to admit that some police officers are in fact in the wrong. (Some do, evidence here). Similarly, many supporters and members of the police community argue that some of the people killed by police were indeed criminals who endangered the lives of their fellow citizens and the officers involved, and that not all officers should be blamed and hated for the actions of a few officers.
Leaves: The discussion of police officers’ use of excessive force has reared its head once again in the past week due to the shooting and deaths of two black men. Calls were made in Baton Rouge, Louisiana stating that a man (who was thought to be Alton Sterling by the police) had a gun; Sterling was pinned to the ground by one officer when another shot him multiple times in the chest (here is one of the multiple videos of the event, again, warning for graphic content). Police say they took a gun out of Sterling’s pocket afterwards. Furthermore, Philando Castile was shot during a traffic stop for a broken tail light. A woman who has identified herself as Castile’s girlfriend took a video (Viewer discretion advised) of Castile with his shirt soaked red, apparently in his own blood, after he was shot by a police officer. The woman stated that Castile was reaching for his ID stating that he had a permit to carry a gun when the officer shot him.
Food For Thought: What do you think about the deaths of these men? How do you think we should end this mutual distrust between protest movements such as the Black Lives Matter movement and the police? Do you think these killings were racially motivated or simply excessive use of force? Or neither?
Still Hungry? Vox (1), The Washington Post, The Guardian, The New York Times, The Atlantic, Eric Garner video, Black Lives Matter, Blue Lives Matter, Reuters, Alton Sterling video, Philando Castile video, NBC News, Vox (2), New York Magazine
Think we missed something? Tell us in the comments.