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by Dr. Boyce Watkins
The older I get, the more I appreciate Spike Lee. Spike ruffles feathers with his raw commentary, but I’m firmly convinced that he cares about black people. While most of the folks in Hollywood are too busy wondering if their overseers are going to give them approval to be outraged over the death of Eric Garner, Spike is making his voice heard almost instantaneously.
Eric Garner was the married father of six who was killed on video by members of the New York Police Department. The senseless homicide in broad daylight was made even more painful by the number of witnesses with cell phones getting the entire incident on tape. There was also the tragic reaction of EMS workers, who cared so little for this precious African American life that they let the man die without even performing CPR on him.
Former police officer Ken Williams, during a conversation we had this week, says that firing the individuals involved in Garner’s death isn’t enough. Instead, someone should be prosecuted and ultimately sent to prison if found guilty. The negligence is appalling, and Williams does a good job of clearly explaining how this could never have happened to a wealthy white man on Wall Street. With all of the rich white guys running around New York with cocaine in their pockets, we have to wonder why they were so concerned about Garner selling untaxed cigarettes. Then, we have to wonder why they felt empowered to harass, humiliate, tackle, choke and kill this man on the street like a cheap and worthless animal.
Even worse is that there are thousands of other Eric Garners who died without having anyone around with cell phones to record the injustice. Instead, the officers were allowed to receive the benefit of the doubt and lean on undeserved public trust to file false police reports claiming that the deceased had a weapon or that they were resisting arrest. In far too many cases, police have assaulted innocent civilians and then attempted to prosecute those individuals for resisting arrest.
So, ask yourself: How many Eric Garners have been murdered by the NYPD who WERE NOT recorded on a cell phone? The real tragedy is not just with Garner’s untimely death. It’s that this death is the tip of the police corruption iceberg.
Please take a second to watch Spike’s video, it’s powerful.