Eric Garner and Michael Brown are two large, unarmed black men killed by police officers. That is where the similarity between the two men and their cases ends, and it is dishonest and irresponsible to equate the two. It is an insult to Garner’s memory and to Garner’s family to equate his case with Brown’s case.
First, the Brown case. We know that the story told by Brown’s friend – that Brown was executed on the street for jaywalking – was an outright fantasy. We know there was a fight between Brown and Darren Wilson, and if Wilson’s account is true he had maybe a second or two before a charging Brown was on top of him. I find Wilson’s story credible but we will probably never know the full extent of what happened on that August day in Ferguson. It did not help that the Ferguson police department has bungled this case from day one.
With Garner, there are no such doubts. We know exactly what happened. Brown may have been violent, and may have attacked Wilson. Garner did not strike, assault or threaten anyone. He did not commit a strong arm robbery. Garner was accosted for selling single cigarettes without collecting the taxes that city government demands. Much like the Mafia, New York City demands a piece of that action. This was turf protection, nothing more.
This could have been resolved without the use of force. Simply telling Mr. Garner to move along and perhaps citing him for the infraction of selling cigarettes without paying off city government would have been a proportionate response. It was not a proportionate response for several police officers to violently tackle him and put him in a submission hold. Had the police not needlessly escalated the confrontation, Garner would still be alive. Irritated, but alive.
It strains credibility to equate the death of a man who was completely nonviolent and was guilty of nothing more that failing to collect taxes for New York City with the death of a man who had a fight with a police officer. There is a reason that there is a deep divide over the result of the Brown case and wide agreement over the Garner case. The two cases are completely separate and should be treated that way. To do otherwise is an insult to Eric Garner and his family.