Eric Garner decision backlash: ‘You can indict a ham sandwich … Unless that ham sandwich happens to be a police officer.’

Massive crowds gathered from Rockefeller Center to Grand Central Terminal last night, and they did not just consist of tourists heading to the tree lighting. Yesterday, a grand jury in New York City decided not to indict the police officer involved in Eric Garner’s death. This past July, police stopped Garner, who had previously been arrested for selling loose cigarettes and was under suspicion of repeating the offense. A young man named Ramsey Ortiz filmed the following struggle between Garner and police officers. Since the New York Daily News released Ortiz’s video, it has ignited racial tensions and sparked a discussion about the force used by law enforcement. This is because the video ends with NYPD Officer Daniel Pantaleo putting Garner in a chokehold and wrestling him to the ground with the help of his fellow officers. Before Garner’s body goes limp, he says “I can’t breathe.” Garner’s last words became a rallying chant for those who gathered to protest in New York City last night.

People across the country are outraged over Garner’s death and the grand jury’s decision, especially as the latter comes only a few weeks after another grand jury’s failure to indict police officer Darren Wilson, who killed 18-year-old Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri this past August. Karen Hunter voiced her own disapproval of the outcome on Urban View.

“I guess it doesn’t matter that somebody, not just killed another man who was in charge of serving and protecting somebody, but he definitely put an illegal chokehold, and it was ruled a wrongful death. Yet he doesn’t get indicted,” Hunter said. “You can indict a ham sandwich … Unless that ham sandwich happens to be a police officer … There obviously will be a wrongful death suit, but that won’t bring Eric Garner back nor will it protect the next young person of color from getting killed.”

On Make It Plain with Mark Thompson, political host and commentator Lizz Brown took issue not only with the fact that Officer Pantaleo was not found guilty, but more so with the fact that no trial will take place at all.

“We have a medical report that says that it’s murder. We have the evidence of the video tape in front of us,” Brown said. “And yet they’re telling us not that he’s not guilty. They’re saying this isn’t even worthy of a trial to find out whether he’s guilty or not … People are not protesting because of a trial. They’re protesting because you’re saying, ‘Secretly we can decide that you all don’t even get a trial.'”

Legal analyst and civil rights lawyer Lisa Bloom spoke out on the Armstrong Williams Show, calling the criminal justice system “the most racist institution in America.”

“No one thing is going to be the perfect solution for this. This is a deeply entrenched problem of racism in the criminal justice system,” Bloom said. “Having looked at this for a long time and written books about it and been a litigator for a long time, there is no doubt in my mind that our criminal justice system is the most racist institution in America. And that’s a stiff competition.”

On Julie Mason’s Press Pool, White House Correspondent April Ryan discussed what President Barack Obama plans to do going forward after the Garner verdict – and why.

“This White House is really trying to figure out what the next step should be as they’re looking at racial profiling issues across the nation,” Ryan said. “This president has dealt with, personally, issues of racial profiling.”

These events have clearly called America’s justice system and the safety of the individuals it is supposed to protect into question – even among law enforcement officials. A few recently phoned in to The Agenda with Ari Rabin-Havt to discuss the actions taken by Darren Wilson and the cops involved in Eric Garner’s death, and what they mean for those on all sides of the story.

Randy, a recently retired police officer from Long Island, told Rabin-Havt the issue stems from how police officers are trained to view their job as public protectors today.

“It seems that now once cops go into combat mode, that’s what it is. It’s combat mode,” he said. “In the case of Michael Brown, this guy just shoots and shoots and shoots until he’s dead. He never reevaluates the situation – which you’re, by law, supposed to do … Somewhere in there, you’ve got to realize that your job is to protect life … That’s where this training has to change. You’re not in there to kill somebody. You’re there to arrest somebody.”

Officer James of Atlanta claimed the cops’ deliberate lack of response to Garner’s words, “I can’t breathe,” was a violation of the conduct expected of police officers.

“Even when you cuff someone that has been violent in a life and death situation, and they say ‘The cuffs are too tight’ [and a law enforcer deliberately ignores this statement], it’s what you call ‘deliberate indifference.’ If they tell you something is uncomfortable or hurting them, you have to provide them comfort,” he said. “We’re talking about someone that wasn’t even violent. That said, ‘I can’t breathe.’ You have a choice as an officer … It’s called ‘deliberate indifference.’ That’s a crime. That’s reckless conduct.”

However, contrary to what many have been claiming since Garner’s death, it is not, in fact, a crime for an officer to use a chokehold on a suspect. Former Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik offered his insight on The Michael Smerconish Program.

“It’s not against the law. It is against NYPD policy to use a chokehold to choke someone out,” Kerik said. “It’s not a crime to use a chokehold or a restraining hold or whatever you want to call it … The problem is as long as there’s resistance [from the suspect], there’s going to be an escalation of force until those officers can get handcuffs on the guy. ”

Karen Hunter believes, moving forward, it will be essential for blacks to regain a sense of power in the justice system.

“Folks in the [black] community have to encourage kids to become cops,” Hunter said. “The argument is ‘Well, we don’t have enough people to police them that look like them.’ So there’s always an excuse. But if we show up and get inside – it’s easier to change stuff from the inside than the outside.”

Good & Smart founder Jenifer Daniels told Mark Thompson she fears raising her children in an environment where young, unarmed black men have been killed by police officers.

“My daughter Jordan will be eight in a few days, and my son will be three in February,” Daniels said. ” I don’t want to even have this in my frame of reference when I raise my children … I don’t want to have to worry about if they’re going to come home.

Rabin-Havt also spoke with Thompson and Reverend Dr. William Barber of the Moral Monday Movement. As a white person, Rabin-Havt wondered what his role would be in solving this problem. Both Reverend Dr. Barber and Thompson weighed in on Rabin-Havt’s question. According to them, no matter what one’s role, these problems inevitably affect all Americans, and as a result, any solution has to be determined and executed by all Americans.

“We need white people to stand up and talk about race,” Reverend Dr. Barber said. “We are not anti-law enforcement in the black community … It’s important that white people and black people stand together and talk about the issue of race … We are in the middle of a broken criminal justice system that all of America is going to have to stand up and make sure that we address it.”

“You have to decide that these are your loved ones too,” Thompson said. “These are our children. These aren’t just our fathers and brothers and uncles. These are yours as well. Just because the color of their skin is different makes them no less attached to you … Eric Garner is your father as well as mine. Michael Brown is your nephew as well as mine.”

For a free 30-day trial, check out

Powered by VIP