A Question Of Human Dignity

Harry Siegel has a deeply moving piece about the second tape made of the killing of Eric Garner by the police. What he gets at seems to me extremely important. It’s about the way the cops treated Garner’s inert body on the sidewalk, ordering people to stay away, barely talking to the man whose head they just smashed into the sidewalk, still handcuffed. He gets no CPR and despite being quite obviously in serious distress, he is just left to lie there, occasionally prodded, his dignity stolen, for seven minutes:

A bit later, the cops and medics finally decide to get Garner into an ambulance.

COP: “We’re going to try to get him up on the stretcher. It’s going to take like six of us.”

They hoist him up and literally drop him onto a gurney. Or at least the left side of him. One cop catches his legs falling off. Another holds Garner’s shirt, apparently to keep the rest of him from rolling off the gurney. Garner’s belly is exposed. He appears to be unconscious.

VOICE: “Why nobody do no CPR?”

VOICE: “Nobody did nothing.”

COP (as he walks by): “Because he’s breathing.”

The camera turns to Pantaleo, about 20 feet away. He waves and steps out of the picture. The camera shifts back to Garner strapped to the gurney and being wheeled away …

As he lay dying, he was treated like a piece of meat. By Pantaleo. By the other cops on the scene. Even by the medical technicians. Had Garner been treated with basic human dignity after he was violently, and needlessly, taken down, he might not be dead.

I recall the way in which Michael Brown’s body was left on the street for four hours, as if he were beneath the dignity of an animal.