Today saw another grand jury, this time in New York, fail to indict a white police officer Daniel Pantaleo in the July 17 death of Eric Garner, a 43-year old black man, a father of six, who had been stopped for peddling loose cigarettes. The police put him in a chokehold, a practice that is actually prohibited by the New York City and many other police departments, and he died despite his cries that he could not breathe. So a man died for the trivial offense of selling cigarettes.
The whole incident was caught on video and the medical examiner had earlier ruled the death a homicide but once again we have the extremely rare situation of the target of an investigation being allowed to testify before the grand jury, and the prosecutor, who almost always gets an indictment, failing to get one in this case.
The county prosecutor handling the shooting of 12-year old Tamir Rice has said that he too will put the case against the policemen who shot Rice before a grand jury. Reports have emerged that suggest that another police department where he had worked earlier felt that he lacked the emotional maturity for police work in a way that was irremediable with training and he was let go before being later hired by Cleveland. Let’s see whether he too gets an exoneration, making three-for three.
Both The Daily Show and The Colbert Report looked at the deteriorating state of race relations in this country as a result of the relentless attacks on the urban poor, which has become code for black. Jon Stewart hits on a theme that I highlighted last week about out how the Obama presidency has been used to whip up white resentment to the point that the racist dog whistles that used to be used in public discourse have been discarded and have now given way to more open and incendiary race-loaded language, especially by Fox News.
(These clips aired on December 1, 2014. To get suggestions on how to view clips of The Daily Show and The Colbert Report outside the US, please see this earlier post. If the videos autoplay, please see here for a diagnosis and possible solutions.)