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Representative Peter King Blamed Garner’s Death on his Obesity

4 Dec

I am really angry. The decision to not so much as indict Officer Daniel Pantaleo in the death of Eric Garner is the most obvious case of institutionalized racism I think I have ever seen. It is unbelievable. Hearing the decision yesterday made me physically ill. I am so disgusted, saddened, disillusioned, embarrassed by our “justice” system that I can’t even put my feelings about the whole thing into words. So instead I am going to direct all my anger at Republican Congressman Peter King from Long Island. My mom once told me that sometimes it is good to have a hate object and well, Congressman King is my hate object. So, in over 3000 words, I transcribed the majority of an interview King gave to Wolf Blitzer of CNN interspersed with my largely unbridled rage. There is a lot of swearing. I hope I got it right but please, tell me if I didn’t.

Wolf Blitzer: What’s your reaction to the grand jury decision today?

Rep. Peter King (hereafter RPK): First of all the death was tragic and…uh…and our hearts have to go out to…uh…the Garner family. Having said that, I do not believe, I feel strongly that the police officer should not have been indicted. I’ve been following this case from the start. He had a 350-pound person who was resisting arrest.

They were arresting him for selling loosies. And although he did resist being handcuffed, which I would imagine happens quite often, Garner neither attacked any of the 5 officers who surrounded him nor did he attempt to flee. His being 350-pounds does not by definition make him a threat.

RPK: The police were trying to bring him down as quickly as possible.

Using a chokehold. The use of chokeholds, according to the New York Law Journal, was limited in some form since at least 1985, when police commissioner Benjamin Ward issued this order:

1. Effective immediately, choke holds, which are potentially lethal and unnecessary, WILL NOT be routinely used by members of the New York City Police Department.

2. Choke holds will ONLY be used if the officer’s life is in danger or some other person’s life is in danger and the choke hold is the least dangerous alternative method of restraint available to the police officer.

We can all agree, since we have seen the motherfucking video of Eric Garner dying in broad daylight while pleading for his life, that at no point in time were the lives of any of the officers in danger at all. There is no grey area here, there are no inconsistencies. Eric Garner was murdered, plain and simple. On August 1st the fucking medical examiner reported that Garner’s death was due to compressions of the neck and “prone position during physical restraint by the police.” It was ruled a homicide.

Also important to note, because the ban on chokeholds has been in effect for so long, New York City police officers are not actually trained to execute the move properly, increasing the risk of injury or death significantly.

RPK: If he had not had asthma and a heart condition and was so obese almost definitely he would not have died from this.

Apparently Representative King thinks the appropriate course of action here is to blame Eric Garner, and his pre-existing health conditions, for his own death. According to Rory I. Lancman and Daniel Pearlstein of the New York Law Journal, “What makes a chokehold so dangerous is how quickly it can kill, depending on a number of essentially unpredictable (and even unknowable) variables, including the underlying physical and mental health of the person being restrained and the skill of the officer applying the hold.” So, yea, Garner’s health was a contributing factor to his death (according to the coroner’s office) but do you know what the actual factor was? The chokehold. A chokehold which was likely improperly executed because, as per NYPD regulations, Officer Daniel Pantaleo was not properly trained to use the move. And the thing is that if he had not used it, improperly and unnecessarily, Eric Garner, despite his being asthmatic, despite his being overweight, and despite his having a heart condition would almost certainly still be alive right now. In the words of Representative King, “almost definitely he would not have died.” But let us continue.

RPK: The police had no reason to know that he was in serious condition. I know that people were saying that he said 11 times or 7 times I can’t breath? Well the fact is if you can’t breath you can’t talk.

Fuck you you mother fucking piece of shit. Do you know why people are saying he said “I can’t breath” 11 times? Because he did. And you know how we know that? Because we saw the video. Eric Garner was being strangled, he was forcibly put on the ground, face first, and held there by the weight of more than one police officer. He died as result of compressions to the neck and the position he was placed in by police officers during his arrest. He could not breath. He died because he could not breath. And that is the fault of the arresting officers. Not his preexisting health condition. He died because Officer Daniel Pantaleo murdered him.

RPK: And if you’ve ever seen anyone locked up resisting arrest, and I’ve seen it, and it’s been white guys, and they’re always saying ‘you’re breaking my arm,’ you’re choking me,’ ‘you’re doing this,’ so police hear that all the time. They…uh…in this case…uh… a chokehold is not illegal, it is against department regulations, but if you look carefully I don’t think there was an intent to put him in a chokehold because he does move the baton as he brings him down.

So according to King because the police apparently hear all kinds of people whining about being hurt or, you know, strangled and because sometimes those people whining are White guys then the police couldn’t possibly be expected to take the whining of this man, who just happened to be Black, seriously. But the point of a chokehold is to cut off airflow, to keep someone from breathing. And it has a history of killing people. It was banned in LA because it was the cause of death of 16 people being arrested between the years of 1977 and 1982. And if our knowledge of (the lack of) police accountability means anything, I would venture to guess the actual number is higher. Also, Representative King, does the name Anthony Baez ring a bell? Because the Eric Garner case is hauntingly similar. Anthony Baez died from asphyxiation after being subjected to a police chokehold and subsequently suffering an asthma attack in 1994. The officer was acquitted. Twenty years, no fucking difference.

RPK: Also people are saying very casually that this was done out of racial motives, or a violation of civil rights. There’s not a hint there that anyone used any racial epithet and also what’s not mentioned is the senior officer on the squad that was there on the location was an African American female sergeant. So I don’t knot where the racial angle comes in. I have no doubt that if that was a 350-pound White guy he would have been treated the same.

I don’t actually think that anyone is saying anything casually. I think people are saying this with all the seriousness and with all the gravity that they can muster. I think people are saying this based on a history of institutionalized racism that dates back over 200 years. I don’t think there is anything casual about hundreds of thousands of people taking to the streets across the country, across the entire world, to say this is not okay, that this is not justice, that Black lives DO matter and that all of us of all races and religions and backgrounds see that. There is nothing casual about the Lincoln tunnel being shut down, about die-ins, about the millions of tweets, about the pain that so many people are feeling, about the deaths of Eric Garner and Michael Brown and Anthony Baez and Sean Bell and Tamir Rice and Amadou Diallo and all the others. There is nothing casual about any of it because we are sick and tired of the consistent valuation of people based off their skin color. And the police officers don’t have to actually say anything racist for their actions to be racially motivated. They were not afraid of Garner because he was huge, they were afraid of Garner because he was huge while being Black. And they acted the way they acted because the risk involved was so low because the odds are they wouldn’t be held accountable for their actions because usually they aren’t. Because in our society, in our police forces, in our justice system Black lives don’t matter. This case is an example of that reality and there is nothing casual about it. It is fucking disgusting.

And the fact that the person in charge was “an African American female sergeant?” That’s like when people say they aren’t racist because they have Black friends. There being a Black person present does not take the element of racism out of the equation and that the person was female makes this statement absolutely laughable. We live in a culture that not only exhibits institutionalized racism but also institutionalized misogyny. And just as racism seems to flourish in organizations such as police departments, so too does misogyny. But I wouldn’t expect someone as unexamined, as willfully ignorant as Representative Peter King to be able to understand something like that.

Rep. King then goes on a minute long explanation of the police officers’ presence in the neighborhood, saying that it was at the request of the people “in that minority community” that they were there because Garner was “constantly selling cigarettes outside their establishments.” So obviously since people of color allegedly had a problem with Garner selling loosies then the police presence, and their subsequent actions, was not only justified but also completely without racial undertones. Oh, okay, I get it now.

Wolf: Chokeholds, I’m told, are banned by the New York City Police Department, Congressman, so I guess a lot of the question is why isn’t the police officer, in this particular case Daniel Pantaleo, being held accountable if in fact he did engage in that chokehold?

RPK: First of all it’s not illegal it’s against departmental policy so that has nothing to do with committing a crime. Secondly there is a real debate as to whether or not that was a chokehold because he did not seem to sustain the baton at the Adam’s apple…

A debate in your head, and amongst your racist friends, does not actually count as a real debate, sir. And when you are capable of watching a man murdered on tape and come out the other side saying only “he did not seem to sustain the baton at the Adam’s apple,” I just, you have not a human bone in your body. You have no emotion, no empathy, no sense of right and wrong. You are so blinded, so controlled, by the societal norms that you claim don’t exist. You actually make me sick.

RPK:…and again I don’t think there’s any indication either they intended to choke him…when you have a 350-pound guy that’s resisting and he’s almost 6 to 7 inches taller than you (and he’s black) you try to grab him where you can and bring him down. And when he was on the ground, I heard someone before say they beat him, nobody punched him, nobody kicked him.

But again the autopsy showed that the pressure on his body during the attempt to handcuff Garner was a contributing factor in his death. They didn’t need to punch him or kick him. They just needed to forcefully push him into the ground and ignore him as he begged for his life, which they did. That they had the sense to not punch or kick him does not make this justifiable, it does not make them any less wrong and it doesn’t make this any less racist.

RPK:...and remember, they didn’t know this was being video-ed. And yet there is no indication of any racial remarks, or attempt to kick him or punch him while he was down.

So what, is a congratulations in order? Can I remind you, Representative King, that the sergeant in charge was a Black woman? And while I think that, as I said before, given the misogyny present in society and, in an even more pronounced ways within police departments, while her presence is not enough to make the argument that there were not incredibly clear racial elements to this entire event, I do think that her presence is enough to keep those under her from using racial epithets. And just because someone doesn’t speak like a racist, doesn’t mean they don’t act like one. And it certainly doesn’t mean they aren’t one.

Wolf: Because the uh, the allegation is that he was, what, selling cigarettes without tax. That’s relatively, that’s a pretty minor crime so the question is was it excessive force to go ahead and try to apprehend him with all these police officers surrounding him and using that kind of force?

RPK: First of all he wasn’t gonna go. Once the police come to arrest someone and he resisted you have to arrest him. You can’t have the community see someone be able to walk away from an arrest.

Well it seems as though the responding officers, through their use of unnecessary and yes, excessive force, made it pretty clear that Eric Garner wasn’t going to walk away from the arrest. But on a more nuanced level, the community already does not trust the police. The community does not respect the police. Our own mayor made a speech in which he discussed how he and his wife had to “train” their son Dante to be especially careful if he had an interaction with the police because the odds of it turning violent, or of Dante getting arrested without good reason, are higher because he is a person of color. The mayor of New York City essentially called the police department out on its racism and, in my mind, he was absolutely accurate in doing so.

RPK: The cops have to establish themselves….they were there serving the purpose of the local community… and again he was resisting arrest…I don’t think there’s any evidence at all, any indication that they wanted to choke him, or they wanted to kill him or cause any severe harm at all.

Wolf: Is it appropriate that Eric Holder, the attorney general of the United States is about to formally announce a federal justice department investigation into what happened?

RPK: I don’t see how there’s any civil rights violation.

Of course you don’t and that is because clearly you don’t have an accurate understanding of civil rights or simply do not believe that civil rights apply to Black people in America. You know who else thinks there was no violation of civil rights? And who actually called Mayor De Blasio a racist? Rudy Fucking Giuliani. And we all know what that asshole is all about. Actually, let me just highlight what that asshole is all about because I cannot stop myself through the rage. He actually said the following thing about De Blasio:

“If he wants to train young black men in how to avoid being killed in this city, he can talk about police. Police should never kill anybody unjustifiably. But you should spend 90% of your time talking about the way they’re actually probably going to get killed, which is by another black. To avoid that fact, I think is racist.”

OH MY GOD WHAT THE EVER LIVING FUCK?! Seriously! So now not only do we have fucking King talking about how the fact that Eric Garner was overweight caused his death, but we have Giuliani blabbering on about how De Blasio should “stop being a racist” and therefore focus on black-on-black crime while literally the entire country, or at least the portion of the country that isn’t mind-bogglingly racist or living under a goddamn rock, is up in arms about the deep-seeded problems inherent in policing in this country and by extension the justice system and society at large.  At least King, in the part I didn’t transcribe here, where he talked about the decreasing violence  in New York had the good fucking sense to not explicitly bring up black-on-black crime although anyone with half a brain could read through the lines. Also, Giuliani? This killing was unjustified and unjustifiable, but Eric Garner won’t see justice. And THAT is what people are talking about.

RPK: And I think it should also be kept in mind, Wolf, that no one has done more to save the lives of young African Americans than the NYPD.You know thousands of young African Americans are alive today because white and black police officers put their lives on the line every day going into the toughest neighborhoods to protect them…and if President Obama is serious about bringing racial peace to this country the last thing he should be doing is having Al Sharpton sit in The White House. When he says that people in the African American community don’t trust the police one of the reasons is because agitators like Al Sharpton are constantly criticizing and denouncing the police before he has any idea what the facts are.

The reason the Black community doesn’t trust the police is not because of Al Sharpton. It is because the police have been incarcerating and killing Black people at significantly higher rates than white people for decades. And that is a fact. Al Sharpton knows it, the Black community knows it, the rest of society knows it. It is just you and your racist friends that seem to be willfully ignorant of this fact. It is not a coincidence, it is not because of some ridiculous and untrue notion that Black people are more violent by nature than people of other races. It is because our system, from top to bottom, is racist as fuck. And people like you work to keep it that way.

And, just to add insult to injury (and to make all of this even more infuriating), here is the outtro:

Wolf: Alright Peter King the Congressman from New York, the son of a police officer, himself grew up in New York City so its obviously a subject that hits right at home to this United States Congressman.

So now I am going to provide a link to Jon Stewart’s bit from last night. He was, as many of us were, completely without words. He managed this, though,

“If comedy is tragedy plus time, I need more fucking time. But I would really settle for less fucking tragedy to be honest with you.”

And I wish he could look Representative King, and Rudy Giuliani, and Robert McCulloch and all the other assholes who are using every ounce of strength and power they possess to simultaneously deny and reinforce the racism in this country and say what he said last night:

“I think what is so utterly depressing is that none of the ambiguities that existed in the Ferguson case exist in the Staten Island case. And yet the outcome is exactly the same. No crime, no trial, all harm, no foul.”

Racism is real. Quo erat demonstrandum, mother fuckers.