Choke Holds Are Intended To Kill – Eric Garner; Ethan Saylor
“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” Dr. Martin Luther King.
I’m reading the news about Eric Garner and it causes me to ask questions while getting that sick feeling in my stomach. Those questions are in regards to why such a violent act committed on Garner has gathered media attention when the same violent action against Ethan Saylor, who had Down Syndrome, is unknown by many. The only conclusion I can draw is because New York cares more about injustices against its citizens than the State of Maryland. In the alternative, New York knows how to handle public relations, even if to give its citizens false hope.
Another aspect that I see is because since Ethan had Down Syndrome, that those advocating for the arrest of the cops that fractured his larynx, turned towards educating and training members of law enforcement about Down Syndrome patients. Training? No. There needs to be law in every state in America that makes using choke holds illegal.
Choke holds convey the message to victims that there is an intent to kill. Victims cannot get out of those choke-holds, especially when someone else is on their back holding them down. Their destiny is sealed in the minds of the person putting them in a hold that causes their bodies to respond in ways that shut down functions of life.
On July 17, 2014, Eric Garner was accused of selling “loosies” – single cigarettes – outside a Staten Island store. A witness however, says that Eric had broken up a fight. He had a background of selling “loosies” and the police automatically wanted to arrest him for the same crime, absent evidence. Police used an unauthorized street fighting move known as a “chokehold” to subdue the 350-pound man. What the police did to Eric was caught on video.
Officer Daniel Pantaleo, an eight-year veteran of New York Police Department, was taken off the street and has been stripped of his badge. Another officer involved has been taken off the street and placed on desk duty pending investigation.
On January 12, 2013 in Frederick, MD, 26-year-old Ethan Saylor went to see the movie “Zero Dark Thirty” in a theater inside a mall. After the movie, Ethan wanted to see the movie again. He was told that he had to buy another ticket. Ethan, who was encouraged to be independent and go places with family and aides, went on his Iphone to find out how to buy a ticket. He did not carry money. Ethan’s care-giver asked the off-duty sheriff deputies, who were moonlighting as mall security, to give Ethan time to figure it out. They would not wait; removed 294-pound Ethan from his seat; drugged him face down and the three deputies heaped on him, putting him in a choke-hold. They fractured Ethan’s larynx.
The Sheriff’s Department in Ethan’s case released 98 pages of incident reports and statements from 22 witnesses. No video.
The Governor of Maryland, Martin O’Malley, met with Ethan’s parents and expressed deep concern about the incident, although he resisted their request for an independent state investigation. An internal police investigation cleared the three deputies of wrongdoing. A Maryland Grand Jury chose not to indict them for any crime. The U.S. Justice Department announced it is investigating to see if Ethan’s civil rights had been violated.
Compare; Mayor de Blasio called Mr. Garner’s wife and mother offering his condolences. Blasio spokeswoman Marti Adams said, “He reassured the family that the city is doing everything possible to ensure a full and thorough investigation.”
Ethan’s family has filed a civil wrongful death lawsuit against the theater, the three officers, and the County. The family has asserted that the main motivation behind their lawsuit is to force the full facts of the incident to be divulged. The Maryland Attorney General’s office is seeking dismissal of the lawsuit, arguing that Ethan was trespassing, stealing, and disobeying police and not because the officers hadn’t been properly trained. I suppose that would be okay if not but for the fact that Ethan’s IQ is reported to have been around 40, meaning that he was cognitively more impaired than the average person with Down Syndrome. The State of Maryland thus, is arguing that Ethan was responsible for his own death because he had Down Syndrome.
Does having video matter?
As we saw in the case of the death of Kelly Thomas, a mentally ill man beaten to death in California, having video and witnesses does not mean that when officers are charged, they will be convicted. Mental and/or physical impairments that prevent citizens from immediately following demands are not taken into consideration by juries. The police can shout numerous, on-running commands and not immediately hearing and obeying them all justifies police using “force.” Police are allowed to use force for their own protection, but protecting themselves should never violate the rights of others. People are not robots.
California let the people down. Kelly Thomas did not receive justice.
Maryland let the people down. Ethan Saylor did not receive justice.
Maybe New York will establish a precedent.
As people add Eric Garner’s name to the list of victims whose death was avoidable, or whose death was not impartially investigated, or to deaths where the perpetrators were set free, do not forget the name of Ethan Saylor.
Race, gender, financial status, mental illness, age, disease. This makes up our population. It is our community. It is our country. An injustice to anyone is an injustice to everyone.
References for more reading.