Dissents Of The Day

Andrew Sullivan —  Dec 5 2014 @ 5:52pm

A rare sentiment from the in-tray:

I am having trouble understanding why you and many of my friends are so exercised about this case. Yes, it is a tragic accident, but, when I watch the video, I don’t see a murder, or even manslaughter. What I see is a big man resisting arrest and a police officer trying to restrain him. It is hard to tell from the video, but it does not appear to me that the officer continued to apply the “chokehold” (a label that may have been inaccurately applied to this case) after Garner said he could not breathe. It looks to me as if that officer grabs him around the neck for only a few seconds, and then, while Garner is still conscious and speaking, tries to restrain him by holding his head in place.

There have been a lot of comments online about whether the officer should have been trying to arrest someone for selling “loosies” on the street. The fault for that doesn’t lie with the officer, but the politicians who wrote the law and the officer’s superiors who insist that the law be enforced in this particular way. Imagine you’re that officer, and your job is to arrest someone twice your size who is resisting arrest. How would you do it? Pepper spray or a taser? We know how controversial that is. Is it fair to send this guy to jail for honestly trying to do his job? I don’t think so.

Another reader quotes me:

But there was no way to interpret [Megyn] 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.

I didn’t see Kelly that day. But I caught her show yesterday and she was very forthright in condemning the police. The only point she made is that she didn’t see proof that the excessive force used against Garner was motivated by racism. I tend to agree with her.

The police made clear their intent to arrest Garner for legitimate, albeit minor reasons. At that point Garner started arguing loudly, and he clearly had no intention of submitting. If he was going to be arrested, it was going to involve a struggle. He pretty much said exactly that.

I don’t know what the law is regarding the rights of people about arrested to quarrel with the cops, or physically resist. But I do know, from a purely common sense standpoint, that there’s no way to win that fight. You can’t argue with cops. Talk yes, argue no. If you argue like Garner did, you’re going to jail no matter what race you are.

I believe a white, Asian, or Hispanic male (of his size) would have been treated the same way. Maybe that’s wrong, but that’s the way it is. Everyone knows it. I’ve never understood why a lot of black men don’t get this fairly ordinary bit of common sense. Given the minor nature of the charges, Garner might have been able to talk his way out of arrest. But the minute he raised his voice, he was headed for the station. Most likely he would have been i-bonded out soon after arrival.

Of course, nothing excuses the subsequent use of clearly excessive force.