Eric Garner

Death of Eric Garner Ruled "Homicide by Chokehold"


killed by cops
cellphone image via Daily News

The medical examiner for New York City ruled the death of Eric Garner, who died in police custody after a violent arrest over allegedly selling loose untaxed cigarettes, a "homicide by chokehold."

Police apologists often advocate the use of chokeholds neck restraints, which are banned by the New York Police Department. NPR explained last week:

Many police trainers say chokeholds are relatively safe — and should be used more. These proponents of the method, it should be noted, hate the word "chokehold." They say it confuses two very different kinds of maneuvers: actual chokeholds, which cut off a person's air supply, and "lateral vascular neck restraints," which don't.

Missy O'Linn, a former cop and self-defense trainer who is now a lawyer who defends cops in court, says in a neck restraint, the officer puts his or her arm around a person's neck in a "V" — putting pressure not on the windpipe, but on the sides of the neck, and on the arteries to the brain.

In the aftermath of Garner's death, police apologists also went to the Internet to complain that Garner,  a 400 pound asthmatic accused, he insisted falsely, of selling loose, untaxed cigarettes, should have complied with officers who were attempting to arrest him, for selling loose, untaxed cigarettes.

In a press conference earlier this week Bill Bratton, speaking with New York City's mayor Bill de Blasio, said that correcting your behavior for police was "what democracy's all about." Though his comments were largely wrong-headed, Bratton is correct that the law against selling loose, untaxed cigarettes is not a concoction of the police, but the city that voted for elected officials who have run the taxes on cigarettes so high as to create a black market in loose, untaxed cigarettes. And that's what democracy's all about, imposing rules supported by a nominal majority over the every-day minority, the individual.