My name is Ray DiSanza. Eric Garner is dead and Officer David Pantaleo killed him. This is not in question. There’s video.
If Eric Garner was dead and Ray DiSanza had killed him, Ray DiSanza would be facing, at the least, involuntary manslaughter charges. Ray DiSanza would have been indicted. If Eric Garner was dead and David Pantaleo had killed him, David Pantaleo would be facing, at the least, involuntary manslaughter charges. David Pantaleo would have been indicted. But apparently putting “officer” in front of the name David Pantaleo makes it perfectly acceptable in the eyes of the law to kill an unarmed, overweight, asthmatic, black man for allegedly selling untaxed loose cigarettes. I’ve sold a cigarette for a dollar before; gonna strangle me?
Eric Garner is dead because of the actions of David Pantaleo and the inaction of the truly obscene number of other officers present at the scene. Again, watch the video. Maybe instead of pushing away the guy with the camera phone someone should have told David Pantaleo, “Hey, easy.” And David Pantaleo, who the NYPD shoved behind a desk until this all went away, because they knew it would, because they knew that in Staten Island his case would come before a grand jury of his peers and not a grand jury of Eric Garner’s.
David Pantaleo is an embarrassment to the shield. He’s an embarrassment to the departments and associations that are trying to protect him and the members of the grand jury that let him off should be ashamed of themselves. To not even indict is a criminal miscarriage of justice and I only wish that the members of the grand jury could be held accountable for their inexplicable decision. I can’t express how happy I am that Eric Holder announced that the Justice Department will be launching an investigation. But a Justice Department investigation can’t bring Eric Garner back to life.
Please allow me to get a few things straight. I am white, male, heterosexual, healthy, educated, middle-class, reasonably young and not hideously disfigured. I am the poster child for traditional American conceptions of normativity. I am a registered Republican but lean mostly moderate. I support the police department, the fire department, and the men and women of the armed forces. I come from a family that boasts policemen and veterans of the armed forces and I’m damned proud of every last one of them. And though I have never served, I do what I do for the same reason they did what they did: because I believe in the possibility of making a better world, because I want a better world for myself, and for my wife, and especially for my daughter. I am an academic and a representative of Suffolk County and the State of New York, but I do not write as a representative of county or state. I write as a private citizen who is suddenly ashamed of his social status and the color of his skin. I’m ashamed because the grand jurors aren’t and they bloody well should be. I’m too ashamed to sit quietly by when I have a voice that I can raise against racism, injustice, and brutality.
Because there are no conflicting reports or autopsies here as there were in Ferguson. The autopsy declared the death of Eric Garner a homicide. And there’s video. And anyone who watched that video and doesn’t think that David Pantaleo should be indicted needs to reexamine everything they’ve founded their life on. Because Eric Garner is dead and David Pantaleo killed him.
So in the interest of promoting the better world that I want for my daughter, for my wife, for myself, and for my students, I issue the following challenges:
To those of you who believe, as I do, that David Pantaleo was wrong in his actions and deserves to face the appropriate legal ramifications, let your voice be heard, but do not answer David Pantaleo’s unjustifiable violence with violence of your own. Honor and remember Eric Garner, but do not become the monsters the NYPD hopes you will become so they can point to your reaction to retroactively justify Pantaleo’s crime.
To those of you at the NYPD, do not support David Pantaleo. Take his gun. Take his badge. Speak out against one of your own who killed a man for no justifiable reason. Even if Eric Garner’s death was an accident, it was a completely avoidable one. Do not support him privately. Do not support him publically.
To the Justice Department, hold nothing back. David Pantaleo didn’t.
To the other officers at the scene, stand up and tell us you wouldn’t have intervened if Eric Garner was white. Tell us you’d have let things play out exactly as they did. Tell us you approve of David Pantaleo’s actions. Tell us you’d have done the same.
And to David Pantaleo, tell us you’d have employed the same force if Eric Garner was a white man. Tell us race wasn’t a factor. Tell us you would have put a white man in a chokehold. Spare us the semantics about the difference between a chokehold and a “sanctioned takedown technique.” Tell us you would have put a white man in a chokehold and kept squeezing when he couldn’t breathe. When he was gasping for air. When his eyes rolled back into his head and his body started seizing. Stand up and swear to all that. Swear on everything you hold sacred. Go ahead, lie to us.