Challenging Injustice, Advancing Human Rights

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Tell the Justice Department: Black Lives Matter

December 5, 2014

The failure of a Staten Island grand jury to bring charges against New York City police officer Daniel Pantaleo, who choked Eric Garner to death for disputing the sale of loose cigarettes, will be regarded as one of the great miscarriages of justice in U.S. history.

There can be no question that (1) Garner was not even suspected of a violent offense; (2) the dispute was verbal and hence did not warrant a physical response; and (3) once Garner pleaded that he couldn’t breathe, the officer should have immediately loosened his hold upon him. And how do we know these three things? Because the world saw them!

Is it any wonder that so many people mistrust the police and, indeed, the U.S. justice system itself? How much value do our justice system and our society place on the lives of people of color? It behooves all of us to look long and hard at those questions.

If you are looking for a way to take concrete action, I would urge you to send a message to the Justice Department. The Justice Department has announced that it will conduct an investigation into the death of Eric Garner. We need to do all that we can to  to make sure that this investigation is conducted fully and fairly, and that its findings are promptly released.

We must also call on the Justice Department to investigate the much broader problem of police mistreatment of people of color in the United States. It can be tempting to place our faith wholeheartedly in governments and institutions, including the justice system. But those systems can sometimes fail and betray our deepest values. We must constantly work to hold our government accountable.

At the same time, we can renew our faith by joining people throughout the country who have risen up, in displays of solidarity and community, to affirm that all lives matter.

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