From Ferguson to New York

I’m sure by now you’ve heard the news (and seen the demonstrations in New York City as well in cities across the country) that there will be no indictment in the case of Eric Garner, who died in a chokehold at the hands of NYPD officer, Daniel Pantaleo. Coming on the heels of the grand jury decision not to indict Officer Darren Wilson in the shooting death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, this news adds to the pain and grief and outrage of the Garner and Brown families, and of so many people across our country. Furthermore, just a few days ago, in Cleveland, a 12-year-old African-American boy was laid to rest after being shot by police as he held a toy gun, completely alone in a park, threatening no one. This action, as with Eric Garner, was caught on tape. It took less than 3 seconds for the police car to drive up and the boy to be shot and killed.

We may not yet have all the facts in these cases. And we do not fully know what the members of the two grand juries went through to come to their decisions. But we do know some things. We know that both Eric Garner and Michael Brown were unarmed. We know that Michael Brown was shot at least six times. We know that Eric Garner’s only crime the day he was confronted by police was that he was selling loose cigarettes. Eleven times, Mr. Garner could be heard on tape saying: “I can’t breathe.” We know that the New York Medical Examiner ruled Garner’s death a homicide – and that chokeholds are prohibited by the NYPD. Most importantly, we know that this happens far too often to far too many young Black men and people of color in this country. Indeed, from Rodney King to Abner Louima to Michael Brown, this has been happening for decades.

Now is a time for grieving and now is a time for prayer. But now is also a time to seize this moment and demand change in the training of Law Enforcement Officers. Now is a time to demand that “liberty and justice for all” are not just empty words. Now is the time to acknowledge that this is a national problem that affects us all.

To find out more about what’s happening with these and other cases, check out the PICO National Network website (People Improving Communities through Organizing).

B’tikvah v’emunah/In Hope and Faith,

Rabbi Susan

Published in Rabbi Susan's Blog on December 5, 2014