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Staten Island: New York's Copland

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There was a 14-minute video that shocked most Americans. The world saw a swarm of about six white NYPD cops behaving like a vicious tag team in WrestleMania II taking down an unarmed, overweight Black man on a New York Staten Island street for allegedly selling a couple of loose cigarettes. At the end of the video 42-year old Eric Garner lay dead, killed by a white, Italian police officer. That was in July.

Five months later a Staten Island Grand Jury of 14 whites and nine "non-whites" exonerated the white cop of all wrongdoing as if the video did not even matter. They ignored the fact that the cops attacked Garner who was heard in the video saying repeatedly "leave me alone, just leave me alone." The Grand Jury could not even bring back a misdemeanor charge against a cop with a history of bad behavior and who was attached to a precinct that gave new meaning to the movie "Copland."

But we should not be surprised. The Grand Jury is the District Attorney's private show held in secret and he or she could, as the saying goes, "indict [or not] a ham sandwich." Obviously a ham sandwich was more important than Eric Garner's life. After all what's another Black murder in the scheme of things? White cops all across the country do not place any value whatsoever on the lives of Black people; they care more about their dogs or cats that hold more currency when put against that of a Black individual, especially a Black male.

That is why part of the national narrative on this issue is wrong. You see, this is NOT about the infringed "rights of minorities," as President Obama on down the political spectrum keep talking about. White cops don't kill Asians, Indians, Hispanics or Jews in the numbers and with the regularity that they do Black people. Blacks, with the exception of Hispanics, number over 27 million people in the United States. We're no minority. Let is stop spinning this and call a spade a spade.

This is about Blacks and whites. It's about white cops (and the wider white community) penchant for using excessive force against Black people, and usually getting away with it for over 350 years. Its about white cops, prosecutors, judges and local state courts acting in concert and collusion with each other in an utterly incestuous relationship that encourages and allows white cops to get away with murder when they kill Black people.

Today, the NYPD has in its ranks a number of killer cops that have committed murder and now walk around with notches on their guns. They draw taxpayer funded pay and will, in all probability, draw cushy pensions and raise their grandchildren in "Staten Island's Copland."

Black people should stop acting surprised when white cops kill Black children. Eric Garner's killing was the latest in a long list of fatal clashes between Black men and white police officers that stretch back all the way through the founding of the United States. In New York City Eric Garner now joins a string of others that together form a glaring indictment and definition of excessive NYPD force: Amadou Diallo. Patrick Dorismond. Timothy Stansbury. Sean Bell. Ramarley Graham.

And the recent record of the New York Police Department (NYPD) is further evidence that a blind man or woman could see that there is something radically wrong with this decision. The chokehold is an illegal and unlawful technique banned by the NYPD; yet over a 12-month period the Civilian Complaint Review Board (CCRB) received over 1,000 complaints about cop-induced chokeholds. Of this number only nine were cited and loss a few vacation days as a result.

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The cesspool deepens when you consider that local NYC District Attorney's -- the one in Staten Island included -- rely on the support of the over 38,000 cops of the NYPD to get re-elected and to investigate crime and make arrests. They are routinely endorsed by the unions that represent police officers; receive financial support and leverage from their partner unions among other things. Elected civil and criminal court judges also rely on cops both for their re-elections and for the furtherance of their careers.

So that the District Attorneys of New York City are beholden to the cops and in the Eric Garner case the DA acted as the cop's defense attorney and not the voice and defender of the dead man. In fact, New York City, a supposed bastion of liberalism, rarely prosecutes its murdering police officers -- white or Black - and the last time a white cop got jail time was in 1994 when an NYPD officer got seven years for choking Anthony Baez to death in the Bronx after his football accidentally struck the cruiser.

Now we march -- again. Until the next time when we'll march again, disrupt traffic for a few hours, and then its back to normal. Of course, our impotent political leaders will do what politicians do best when they don't have a clue or an answer to a very sensitive question, especially when it boils down to race. They will launch inquiries and convene commissions that release reports one year later with little or nothing to show for this waste of taxpayers' money.

And New York City's political establishment MUST bear some responsibility for the sordid outcome of this case. Starting with Governor Andrew Cuomo who refused to appoint a Special Prosecutor in the case even though he is well aware of the corrupt and shady history of Staten Island and its "cop culture."

In the days to come we're going to hear from many liberal conservative voices about how protesters should behave as if there are legislative rules about how and when to get angry and as if this is a Bible Study class. Protests, by their very nature, are emotionally charged activities and there is no telling people how to behave. That's why police come prepared to enact arrests, throw tear gas, institute baton charges, and other counter-force activities.

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When cops kill unarmed Black people nobody asks them "to behave." On the contrary, many are the rushes to the defense of the cops claiming that they acted within the limits of the law and were "well within their rights." Its as if these folks have a monopoly on violence.

The level of underlying racism is seen in the way the white community -- cops included -- handle deliberate mass murder by white males. There the narrative is an excuse-laden presentation of supposed mental illness and childhood abuse of these stone-cold killers. They are always presented as clean cut, "All American" kids "gone wrong" by some social trigger, broken home or "crying out for help."

For Blacks? Michael Brown was a cigarette (or cigar) thief and Eric Garner was doing something illegally ergo both deserved to be killed. It is the way that white people see Black people -- Blacks are lazy, criminally pre-disposed, and sex-crazed; white murderers of all stripes are "good kids, from a good Christian family" that killed because they were mentally impaired and "snapped."

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MICHAEL D. ROBERTS is a top Political Strategist and Business, Management and Communications Specialist in New York City's Black community. He is an experienced writer whose specialty is socio-political and economic analysis and local (more...)
 

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