On the Cases of Michael Brown, Eric Garner, and Police Brutality

Eleni Aneziris, Staff Writer

On August 14, 2014, 18-year old Michael Brown was fatally shot in Ferguson, Missouri by police officer Darren Wilson for stealing cigarillos from a convenience store. The disputed circumstances of the case led to protests in Ferguson against racism and police brutality which received worldwide attention. Although most were peaceful protests, some protesters quickly became violent, destroying local stores and stealing merchandise, resulting in Ferguson police using force and tear gas on predominantly civil crowds. On November 24, it was announced that the grand jury decided not to indict Wilson, which sparked further protests and civil unrest. The phrase, “Hands up, don’t shoot” quickly became a symbol of the movement.

On July 17, 2014, Eric Garner was killed in Staten Island, New York by police officer Daniel Pantaleo for selling cigarettes. After the initial confrontation, Pantaleo wrestled Garner to the ground and put him into a chokehold. Four other police officers quickly moved in to restrain Garner, who repeated the words, “I can’t breathe” eleven times before losing consciousness. He was pronounced dead on arrival at the hospital an hour later and the medical examiner ruled Garner’s death a homicide. On December 3, a grand jury did not indict Pantaleo, resulting in national protests against police brutality.

More recently, on December 20, 2014, NYPD police officers Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu were both killed by gunman Ismaaiyl Brinsley, who killed himself almost immediately after. Brinsley boasted on Instagram that the shooting was to avenge the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner. While police brutality has resulted in the deaths of many unarmed black individuals in 2014 including Brown and Garner, as well as John Crawford and 12-year old Tamir Rice, responses like Brinsley’s demonstrate that combating violence with more violence is certainly not the correct way to solve such problems.