The following is a short piece by Florence Johnston Collective, who have been participating in the anti-police activity here in New York following the acquittals of Darren Wilson and Daniel Panteleo.
“This Stops Today”
Since August of this year (2014), people in Ferguson, Missouri have been in the streets, experimenting with a wide variety of resistance against police violence, spurred by the murder of 18 year old Michael Brown by police officer Darren Wilson. A little over two weeks ago, Darren Wilson was acquitted through a secretive Grand Jury trial of the murder, and last week another police officer, Daniel Panteleo, was similarly acquitted following his murder of Staten Island resident Eric Garner.
For the past two weeks, thousands of people all over the country have engaged in some of the most militant protests this country has seen in decades. In cities where the norm is for protests to be per-approved by the police and for marches to stay on the sidewalk, protestors are taking over and shutting down major highways and bridges. In situations where six months ago people may have been frightened or scattered by the police, they are fighting back, using the cops’ tools of violence against them–throwing back barricades and tear gas canisters, and forcefully releasing their fellow protesters from arrest and incarceration.
At least one New York City march last week began with a reading of Garner’s last words. Before gasping “I can’t breathe” eleven horrific times before Panteleo and his fellow officer made sure Mr. Garner would never breathe again, he said this:
“Every time you see me, you want to mess with me. I’m tired of it. It stops today. Why would you…? Everyone standing here will tell you I didn’t do nothing. I did not sell nothing. Because every time you see me, you want to harass me. You want to stop me (garbled) Selling cigarettes. I’m minding my business, officer, I’m minding my business. Please just leave me alone. I told you the last time, please just leave me alone. please please, don’t touch me. Do not touch me.”
What these words reveal, beyond the complete disregard of human life by the police, is the history of harassment Garner faced as someone allegedly involved in the informal economy (the police were supposedly harassing him for selling loose cigarettes, although he was not arrested nor charged), living in a mostly black and working class neighborhood. What they also reveal is that despite the threat of state violence, Garner took a stand against this abuse.