“It stops here.”

“It stops here.”

So declared Eric Garner, vendor of “loosies” — individual cigarettes sold to evade New York state and New York City’s deliberately punitive tobacco taxes. He continued, “I’m minding my business, officer. I’m minding my business. Please just leave me alone. I told you the last time. Please, please, please don’t touch me. Do not touch me.”

Those weren’t quite his last words. As we all know by now, his last were, “I can’t breathe!” — repeated over and over again until he passed out from a chokehold and chest compression, then died as both police and EMTs stood around, indifferent to his suffering, his condition, and his eventual fate.

The EMTs were disciplined for their unprofessionalism and callousness. The man who jumped Garner and initiated his death — we also all know by now — was exonerated by a grand jury. Not even charged with manslaughter — a fact that even the most pro-police conservatives found shocking and liberals and hard-core freedomistas were outraged by.

Never mind that the man in question violently attacked Garner over nothing more than a fed-up, weary verbal protest at being constantly hassled for such a petty (and very libertarian) “crime.” Never mind that he used a chokehold forbidden to NYC police officers for the last 20 years. Never mind that he and his fellow officers held the overweight, unhealthy Garner on the ground in a way that their own police bulletins told them could be deadly. Never mind that he and his accomplices put out an initial story that Garner had died of a simple heart attack, nothing to do with their treatment of him at all, a tale quite at odds with the medical examiner’s report.

Officer Daniel Pantaleo now says he’s sorry and that he prays for Mr. Garner and his family every day.

I guess that makes it okay.

—–

Garner was killed last July. Twelve-year-old Tamir Rice was removed from life more recently. So we don’t know yet whether his killer, Officer Timothy Loehmann, is prayerfully sorry or will pretend to be. We don’t know what his “official” cover story is. We don’t know whether Officer Loehmann will get off Scot-free or receive a token wrist-slap. (If I were a betting woman, I wouldn’t put money on the there ever being a murder, or even manslaughter, indictment.)

Some things we do know: Tamir Rice was shot within two seconds of Loehmann’s police car pulling up on the scene. And Loehmann was an emotionally unstable young man, who had already been declared unfit for being a police officer.

Tamir Rice was carrying an Airsoft pistol or some other type of non-firearm. Even the citizen who’d called in the original report of “a guy” carrying a gun had said the gun was “probably fake.” Evidently he assumed that officers would check the situation out rather than instantly opening fire.

We don’t know whether that crucial detail was conveyed to Loehmann and his partner. But we do know that when Loehmann was declared unfit for police work two years earlier, it was after he had an emotional meltdown during live-fire training on a pistol range. (Yes, he was reportedly broken hearted over a relationship gone wrong, but we’ve all been through that, and most of us manage to stay sane, stable, and functional on the job no matter how dark our private moments get. His bosses clearly recognized that guns, cops, and emotional instability were an ugly combo.)

Tamir Rice learned just how ugly. Too bad he had only two seconds to absorb the lesson.

A year earlier, Sonoma County (California) cops gave 13-year-old Andy Lopez a hair more time than that before slaughtering him.

It was about the same with John Crawford III, an innocent Walmart customer murdered last August by police the second they spotted him. They were acting at the behest of a lying phony 911 caller (using a tactic recommended by the Bloomberg moms). Their instantaneous, panicked slaughter was completely unjustified. But of course, being police, they got away with it.

Seems that hoplophobia overrules common sense and judgment — and that that’s just fine when the killers are in that special, exempt class of what David Codrea dubbed “only ones.”

The only ones who consistently get away with behavior that would put you or me in prison for years, if not decades.

—–

These killings have been pinned on racism (though young Andy Lopez was, in the phrase originally coined for George Zimmerman “white-Hispanic”). No doubt fear of black men has something, maybe plenty, to do with it.

The killing of Garner is being pinned on “broken-window policing” (which assumes that those who commit even petty crimes are potential murderers). No doubt that, too, has something to do with why cops feel so entitled to use monstrous force in response to tiny deeds.

Such killings have been blamed on the militarization of police forces, with its attendant mindset that all non-cops are “the enemy.” No doubt that’s true, also. (And getting some very long overdue attention.)

Blame also falls on the concept of “officer safety” — which sounds so sensible in theory but in practice gives cops permission to see themselves as helpless victims, justified in using any amount and kind of force to “protect” themselves even when nobody is threatening them.

Clearly outright hoplophobia — a sheer terror at the very existence of firearms — has to be the major explanation for slaughtering children on sight merely for holding things that look like firearms. (For generations, American kids carried and used guns, both real and fake, without being gunned down for doing so.)

But whatever the individual causes (and I think we can safely say “all of the above”), the major underlying cause for all this is still going largely unexamined (oddly enough, the extreme-left publication The Nation comes closer than anybody else to the real issue — though it ultimately dodges it).

—–

The real problem is that governments created a special class of armed enforcers to serve the requirements of politicians and that they then turned those enforcers loose to brutalize anybody they wish without personal consequences to either the officers themselves or their direct political bosses.

That they then armed their enforcers with surplus military weapons, entitled attitudes, and a belief that the rest of us are their enemies is secondary. That these enforcers are increasingly encouraged to see all firearms and all people carrying them as a special kind of enemy, to be slaughtered on sight without any evaluation or judgment of the situation — or any mercy — is a terrible, terrible, ominous and dangerous thing. But even that is secondary to the real problem: that police serve government, not citizens, and that citizens have no way to hold brutes personally responsible for their brutality.

Bottom line: By definition, more government equals more force. And less individual accountability.

Unfortunately, the current sudden outcry against police tyranny won’t change anything. Cosmetic reforms will be passed. They will accomplish little. A few individual officers might actually face a few consequences, perhaps in highly publicized federal civil rights cases. (That happened in the Rodney King case and have you seen any improvement in policing or police officers since then?)

Nothing substantial will change because the culture of immunity and impunity that rules both politics and policing will remain intact.

In fact, for gun owners, things will get worse. Police hatred and fear of guns (that is, your guns, my guns; of course not their own guns) will increase because politicians are encouraging it and the politicians are the masters. Always have been and always will be.

Non-minorities who live in fairly civilized places will continue to luck out. For a while. As official hoplophobia builds, even that bit of luck will run out.

“It stops here” is a brave declaration. In Garner’s case, it was a foolish declaration because he had no means of upholding it against the force of both trained thugs and the government that sent them.

But if those responsible for both being brutes and sending brutes among us aren’t held firmly and consistently to account for their deeds, someday citizens as weary and fed up as Eric Garner (but more organized, more powerful, and more ready) will say, “It stops here” and make that stick.

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42 thoughts on ““It stops here.””

  1. “Nothing substantial will change because the culture of immunity and impunity that rules both politics and policing will remain intact.”

    And that can’t change alone, obviously.

    Nothing will change for the better until people generally can recognize and reject the idea that any non-voluntary government has legitimate authority over their lives and property. As long as they see police, politicians and bureaucrats as having that authority, even when they see the evil they do, the government and the police will continue to have that essential “consent of the governed,” no matter how much people disagree with some of the consequences.

  2. “But if those responsible for both being brutes and sending brutes among us aren’t held firmly and consistently to account for their deeds…”

    Ain’t gonna happen, Claire!

    It’s all right. They have dispensed with evaluation, judgement and mercy in dealing with us. The day will come that we do the same for them. They shouldn’t be too surprised; but since a lot of them are dumb asses, they probably will be. None of that matters either.

    1. It will be that deer in the headlight look…What do you mean I’m not the hero…You can’t do that to me I’m a cop…

  3. Say “I can’t breathe.” Put your hand against your throat and press. Say it again.
    Inconvenient truth:
    If you can clearly say you can’t breathe, it is not an arm around your neck that is stopping you.
    That fact does not make Eric Garner’s death less tragic.

    1. Jan — That’s not necessarily accurate. It’s true that if someone were strangling you to death in the classic way you see in the movies you wouldn’t be able to speak clearly. But what was being done to Mr. Garner was something much more complicated than that. Did you watch the video? He had an arm thrown around his throat, which pulled his head back at an unnatural angle, then he was wrestled to the sidewalk and his upper body crushed against it by the weight of more than one cop.

      Both that particular chokehold and compressing someone against the sidewalk in that way are known to potentially kill people, particularly those with existing medical conditions. The exact hows and whys that they can be fatal is just not as simple as you appear to be thinking.

      1. I think that WHY the cops were choking and sitting on him is more relevant than the mechanics of what killed the man. His medical condition didn’t contribute a thing to the reason the cops attacked him, obviously. But then, I don’t think his race was a major factor either. He was not obeying “the law,” and had shown no intention to do so in the past. That simply could not be tolerated.

        The whole purpose of the police force is control. They have no problems using force to gain and maintain that control. Far too many people are happy to believe that these cops actually have a legitimate authority to exercise that control – even when they deplore the suppsed “excessive” nastiness of it. Even with the very best of the “good cops,” it is a matter of degree, not of kind.

        No, I think Paul has it right. At some point, people will generally withdraw that belief in the legitimacy of government and cops to control their lives. Then, unfortunately, all hell will most likely break loose. Will those who have been chained and abused so long exercise any restraint, good judgment or mercy? Only time will tell.

        1. Far too many people are happy to believe that these cops actually have a legitimate authority to exercise that control – even when they deplore the supposed “excessive” nastiness of it.
          I think it’s more than “belief.” Too many of We the People want the cops to enforce laws they approve of (Ban Smoking!) against people they disapprove of (Icky smokers!) even while the government is acting from other interests (Tobacco tax revenue!) in conflict with the People’s goal.
          Change will come only when WtP figure out that power given the government to do unto others is being used to do unto them.

    2. Claire is correct.
      1. When a person’s chest is constricted they can breathe out, and talk, but can’t get breath back in.
      2. The “choke-hold” applied as designed doesn’t constrict the windpipe or larynx. (So it doesn’t really “choke.”) Instead it compresses the carotid arteries running through the neck, cutting off blood flow to the brain. Speech is unimpaired.
      Applied properly, and released at the right time, a choke-old is an efficient way to knock someone out without inflicting permanent damage. Unfortunately there’s a very narrow window between knocking them out and killing them, particularly when dealing with either a person in ill health, or a situation where other restraints are being effected by other people in a pile-on.
      The combination of those two factors, as in this case, is lethal.

      1. Thank you guys for your elaborations on how a “chokehold” doesn’t (these days) mean actual choking.

        Here’s a commentary from a man who worked in group homes with sometimes-out-of-control adults. It’s about how training can help de-escalate tense situations. Assuming your goal is to de-escalate them, of course. Clearly those New York cops wanted to escalate the situation with Garner.

        https://ricochet.com/thoughts-on-the-killing-of-eric-garner/

      2. The experience of the victim may also manifest itself as being out of breath, even if he can talk. Also, saying “I can’t breathe” is more natural for someone with an arm around his neck, even while technically inaccurate, than saying, “I can’t get enough blood to my brain via the carotid arteries”!

    3. As a point of fact, you are not wrong.

      But, have you ever had your breathing restricted? Asthma perhaps? Or a “blood” choke (to differentiate from a “wind” choke)? It ain’t fun, and one tends to panic.

      Besides, its a helluva lot easier to say “I can’t breathe.” than it is to say, “Please, Mr. Officer, I am having a difficult time breathing.”

  4. @Jan: You are aware that under normal circumstances, when you exhale, there is still air in your lungs? Try it. Breathe out normally, then force out a couple more puffs of air. You can do it. So maybe, under duress, a contracted statement such as, “I can’t breathe”, is all that is possible, while still conserving as much air in the lungs as you can, and preferable to a much longer statement of, “I have health problems, officer, and your treatment of me is restricting my ability to breath normally, so can you let up on that please?”

  5. Bravo, Claire. Yep you hit it.
    I’ve been wondering when in all the hoo-ha about Ferguson *anybody* was going to say ‘hey, it isn’t about race, its about the cops’.
    Anybody who has ever dealt with cops on anything over a traffic ticket level knows that unless you immediately cower (and sometimes even if you do), they can and will use lots of excessive force. They will then lie about it. If you are arrested, they can and sometimes will kill you. And they get away with it.

    Many cops are bullies that have been handed a badge and a gun and carte blanch to swagger around believing that they are the trusted sheep dogs. They are consistently held to a significantly different standard from the rest of us.

    and when a Michael Brown or an Eric Garner happens, the media makes it about race. There are plenty of stories about cops abusing their power that have nothing to do with black brown or white. but they never make the front page.

  6. And, a reply from a police officer:

    It’s unfortunate that NYPD officers have been pressed into service as enforcers for the nanny state that New York City has become, but don’t put a law on the books if you don’t want the cops to enforce it, and don’t ask them to enforce it if you’re not willing to accept the fact that violence will sometimes occur when people resist that enforcement. — Jack Dunphy is the nom de cyber of a police officer in Southern California.

    Written like a true agent of the state. Yes, negligent manslaughter is just the price we pay for living in a tyrannical state, and those officers just can’t help it if it’s part of their jobs.

    1. “…violence will sometimes occur…”

      Don’t you just love this typical statist evasion of responsibility? Oh, what masters of passive voice our masters have become!

      “Violence will occur.” Just … because. Certainly not because the cops or their masters actively choose it.

      1. Everything we are going through is a repeat of Germany in the 1930s. The sheeple can’t see it because the ruling elite professess to act for the sake of values diametrically opposed to those of the Third Reich. Which is true, except in a circular universe — i.e. the Oriental perception of reality, not ours that’s linear– if you keep running away from point A to the extreme other end, you’ll arrive… at Point A.

        However, even under the Nazi regime, where refusal to carry out a “directive” (let alone an order) could and did result in forfeiting your life if you were in uniform, cops and soldiers could be found who had a soul. My own mother, who was in the Polish underground, experienced this several times, but in this context, I’ll cite just one:

        Mom was arrested by a regular German policeman-conscript (it was conquered Polish territory) for having fake ID papers. On their way to the Gestapo headquarters, Mom was pleading with the cop, “Please let me go ; I am young; what good will it do that they kill me.”

        The cop — big, fat and middle-aged– hugged her with tears in his eyes, and then continued marching her toward the evil edifice. He said, (in German), “Child, I’d do anything tobe ale to do that, but if I let you go, they will kill me. But rest assured: I know that I will not survive this war, but you will.”

        Ex-officer Dunphy and other cops who are “just following orders” might show at least as much contrition and humanity as this Nazi machine cop did, even if they are unwilling to suffer repercussions from their superiors for “failing to perform their duty to enforce the law.”

  7. Clearly those New York cops wanted to escalate the situation with Garner.

    Well of course they did. He didn’t respect their authority, and they can’t have that. He needed a lesson.

    1. Yes, it’s time. While most people have to figure their chances and make their choice based on existing constraints (e.g. a father with kids to feed may reasonably choose submission), there are an awful lot of us with no such constraints, and no more excuses. We don’t have to wait for a general war to start, to act. We just have to respond as a man should respond, when attacked. Our war will then be a personal one.

  8. Monster post, Claire; thanks. Everyone knows the catch but few like to say it. “It stops here,” means HERE, wherever the person is.

    But what a great coincidence…it stops here too!

    1. I don’t think it would take stacks of them…After a few in every state I don’t think the rest would have the guts to continue…

  9. Real solution—blacks need to get armed up—when stuff like this starts going down—a dozen armed blacks show up and triangulate their opponents. Either that or stop stealing swisher sweets and selling loosie cigarettes.

    Guess this really goes to show—cigarettes kill :-p

  10. Matt Bracken says it here in his essay “Dear Mr. Security Agent.”

    “I am telling you now that disastrous unintended consequences will happen if Congress passes new laws banning presently legal firearms. To make it very easy to remember, and in the spirit of our beloved Department of Homeland Security’s old color-coded security threat levels, let me spell out three lines of demarcation.

    The Yellow Line:
    The yellow warning line will be crossed with national gun registration laws, including laws forbidding private gun sales without government permission. When that law passes, millions of Americans will feel that they have been pushed directly to the edge of the abyss above the mass graves of history. Defenders of the Second Amendment know what happened in Turkey, the USSR, Germany, China, and other nations that fell under totalitarian rule: in every case a necessary preliminary step on the road to genocide was national gun registration, followed by confiscation. The Jewish survivors of the Nazi Holocaust say, “Never again!” And so do we.

    The Red Line:
    The red line will be crossed with the passage of laws mandating that currently owned weapons, ammunition magazines, and ammunition quantities above a certain number must be turned in to authorities or destroyed, and thereafter their simple possession will be a felony. At that point, the nation will be on a hair trigger, with a thousand flaring matches nearing a thousand primed cannon fuses aimed directly at the next Fort Sumter.

    The Dead Line:
    The next line requires a bit of history to explain. In some primitive Civil War POW camps, where lack of funding or logistical constraints did not allow the construction of proper fences, a knee-high continuous railing of wooden slats encircled the prison grounds. Guards with rifles were positioned at the corners and in crude towers. If a prisoner so much as stepped over the narrow plank, he was shot dead without warning, obviating the need for a real fence to contain him. Hence the term “dead line.” Cross the line and people die, right now.

    And this is what liberal utopians must understand: after passing the yellow line with national gun registration and transfer requirements, and the red line by making possession of currently legal firearms felonious, the dead line will be breached with the first SWAT raids upon citizens suspected of owning legal firearms made illegal by the new gun control laws. People will die resisting confiscation, in large numbers.”

    And he’s right. Unfortunately, some individual states have recently passed laws such as he described and there will be consequences. What really worries me is that someone, somewhere has coldly calculated those consequences and does not consider them unintended.

  11. There were some interesting conversations in the Oregonian (Portland, Or – leans very far left) this morning about a Salem, Or. cop being photographed while sleeping in his squad car. Some people got righteously flamed for suggesting that a passersby or the photographer could have simply tapped on the window to check on the officer. I know I would not. I’d rather phone in a possibly false officer in distress call before I wake up an armed and unaccountable law enforcer. And if I was called on it, I would use their fallback line: “I was afraid for my life.”

  12. Disarm the police.

    When they don’t have the power of the gun to back them up the psychos will leave the force and we will be left with people are interested in the “administration of justice” and not “law enforcement”.

    The police can call for armed backup when they need it or better yet from the armed “civilians” around them.

    Lets return to a culture of self-reliance.

    1. As crazy as it may seem, thiz might just be the most rational idea yet. The Metropolitan London Police go about unarmed, but can certainly have heavily armed backup (“flyingsquads”?) available within moments. Maybe the idea of forcing the bullies and thugs out of uniform would result. But hell, I’m in Texas, it would never here.

  13. Im glad to see there are intelligent people who understand how suffocation works,you dont need full airway constriction to be chocked to death like the ignorant boys in blues’ union proclaims.And the ignorant parrot in unison.

    What really bothers me are all the ignorant racist comments on yahoo about how the blacks are getting what they are asking for.They dont get it,PEOPLE are being KILLED for minor minor offenses,and mouthing off to a cop,or resisting arrest is NOT a DEATH PENALTY crime.

    The ‘Heroes’ are NOT Judge,Jury and Executioner all combined for ANY offense as they see fit.Lets hold these BLUE murderers accountable IN A COURT OF LAW,not a grand jury of one sided evidence being used to acquit them before even going to court.They get free lawyers,lets see them present ALL the evidence and then be judged by a jury and see how many of these deaths pass the smell test.

    Until we can get past the color of your skin and figure out the problem here is BLUE,this is only going to get worse.

  14. And everyone will continue to talk and talk and do nothing to restore the Constitution. I know the drill — Americans will sit on their obese and pampered rear-ends and in the end, DO NOTHING EXCEPT TALK.

  15. Well Im going out marching when I can.I have to be counted,and consequences be damned.Personally I dont know what else I can actually do.

    Put me on your frickin’ list if you havent already.Im fed up!

    Its OUR Country,not the govs. Lets be heard,they cant ignore thousand or millions marching on them(Peacefully may I add).

    We DO have the numbers.

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