The Right’s Response To Eric Garner

Yglesias observes that “early reactions suggest that anger over the decision not to prosecute [NYPD officer Daniel] Pantaleo spans the political spectrum.” Andy McCarthy, for one, freely admits that the Staten Island grand jury may have made a mistake:

I don’t think race had anything to do with what happened between Eric Garner and the police. I intend to keep an open mind until we learn all the evidence the grand jury relied on. And I continue to believe the NYPD is the best police force there is. But I also know, as good cops know, that there is a difference between resisting arrest by not cooperating, as Garner was doing in Staten Island, and resisting arrest by violent assaults and threats of harm, as Michael Brown did in Ferguson. Police deserve a very wide berth in responding to the latter, but less of one with the former. I thus cannot in good conscience say there was insufficient probable cause to indict Officer Pantaleo for involuntary manslaughter or criminally negligent homicide.

Many more conservatives are outraged. Sean Davis is one of them:

There’s an America where people who kill for no legitimate reason are held to account, and there’s an America where homicide isn’t really a big deal as long as you play for the right team. Unfortunately Eric Garner was a victim in the second America, where some homicides are apparently less equal than others.

Dreher echoes:

Maybe, just maybe, a trial would have found these cops not guilty of negligent homicide in Garner’s death. But based on that video, how can there not even be a trial? This is messed up.

It strikes JPod “as understandable that a grand jury would look at the events and not see something they would call a murder.” But even he sees the need for change:

The real question that is going to be asked, now, is just how aggressive law enforcement can and should be in an era of low crime, which is what we’re in now. If you defang cops, you are inviting a return to trouble. As I wrote last week, “if we send police officers the message that it is safer for their careers and reputations to stand down, stand down they will. We are the ones who will have to reckon with the results.” At the same time, no civilized society can view the tape showing Garner’s desperate pleading and not ask some very difficult questions of itself.

Jonathan Last adds, “It would be helpful if the country could let go of Ferguson and focus our attention on Garner.” And Pete Wehner has a typically humane response:

I get that when citizens don’t obey orders from a police officer, they will sometimes need to be subdued. But there’s also such things as judgment and discretion. In this case, Mr. Garner committed the lowest-level transgression imaginable, he wasn’t armed, and he wasn’t really violent. He certainly wasn’t a man who deserved to die. Most people watching this video and hearing Mr. Garner scream “I can’t breathe!” before his body goes limp will, I think, be disturbed by it. Call it basic human sympathy.

I’m not in favor of rushing to judgment, and I’ll be happy to revise my own views based on evidence, if that’s warranted. But for now, based on the evidence we do have, my reaction is that a lethal mistake, an injustice, and a genuine human tragedy happened on the streets of New York on July 17.

Shortly after he was killed, a woman at Mr. Garner’s home, who identified herself as a cousin named Stephanie, said: “The family is very, very sad. We’re in shock. Why did they have to grab him like that?”

That’s a very good, and a very haunting, question.

I know that some will cavil at my relief that conservatives and liberals can agree on something, but we have to treasure these moments while we can. The exception to all this was Fox News last night. Megyn Kelly’s coverage proved that there is almost no incident in which a black man is killed by cops that Fox cannot excuse or even defend. She bent over backwards to impugn protesters, to change the subject to Ferguson, to elide the crucial fact that the choke-hold was against police procedure, and to imply that Garner was strongly resisting arrest. Readers know I had very mixed feelings about Ferguson. I’m not usually inclined to slam something as overtly racist. But there was no way to interpret Kelly’s coverage as anything but the baldest racism I’ve seen in a while on cable news. Her idea of balance was to interview two, white, bald, bull-necked men to defend the cops, explain away any concerns about police treatment and to minimize the entire thing. Truly, deeply disgusting.