Thursday, December 4, 2014

Grim Times in America

Protests erupted throughout New York City in the wake of a grand jury giving a pass to the white police officer derisively known as the "Choke Cop." Everywhere, that is, except Staten Island, the actual scene of Eric Garner's death last summer.

The exact spot of the homicide was empty last night, save for the presence of some wilted bouquets and a couple of reporters. Everyone was holding marches and die-ins on the West Side Highway and Times Square and Rockefeller Center.

Staten Island, that most outer of boroughs, is the base of New York City Republican politics. Dan Donovan, the elected district attorney who ensured that Choke Cop was not indicted, is a former operative in the local Republican machine long controlled by the Molinari family. The borough is more than 75% white and only 10% black. So entrenched are conservative politics that voters just re-elected Molinari-backed Michael Grimm to Congress despite the fact that he is under criminal indictment for corruption. Grimm, unsurprisingly enough, has run on a militaristic law and order, pro-Homeland Security, Islamophobic platform. He's the classy guy who threatened to hurl a reporter over the balcony after this year's State of the Union address.

Ex-New York City Mayor and multibillionaire Michael Bloomberg could never have won narrow re-election to a third term himself without Staten Islanders returning him to power with a whopping 76% of their own vote. Bloomberg was gung-ho on both Stop & Frisk and for fighting against "quality of life" annoyances that got in the way of his gentrification campaign to turn the city over to the rich and powerful at the expense of the poor and downtrodden. Eric Garner interfered with the quality of life of Staten Island, apparently. He'd long been a target of police state harassment for allegedly cheating the state out of its cigarette taxes. Garner had the effrontery to support his family through the sale of  "loosies" instead of supporting the plutocracy through his low-wage labor. Garner was an affront to capitalism.

He refused to accept his arrest graciously, and thus was his breathing permanently arrested.

Since the whole homicide was caught on tape, it will be exceedingly hard for the timid corporate lawyer/AG  Eric Holder not to bring charges against the police department and city. Any punishment will no doubt come in the usual Holder method of an out-of-court settlement, payable by the little people who pay the taxes, and not by such tax-exempt citizens as the Kochs, Alice Walton, and Wall Street banks.

Garner's death, while reminiscent of the Ferguson shooting of Michael Brown, is actually more of a piece with the deaths of two bi-racial Staten Island toddlers during Hurricane Sandy. As flood waters raged across the island, submerging Glenda Moore's SUV and sweeping her children away, her pleas for help from her neighbors went coldly rebuffed. Glenda Moore is black.
According to the sister, a dripping-wet Moore banged on doors looking for help in the middle of the hurricane, but couldn’t find anyone willing to help her.

"They answered the door and said, 'I don't know you. I'm not going to help you,’” said the sister. "My sister's like 5-foot-3, 130 pounds. She looks like a little girl. She's going to come to you and you're going to slam the door in her face and say, 'I don't know you, I can't help you'?'”

Moore spent the night huddled on a doorstep as the hurricane’s assault continued. At daybreak, her sister said, the desperate mother walked until she found a police car and related her heart-breaking story.
So much for the racist meme that the reason black people so often get killed is because they're big and scary and threatening, like Michael Brown and  Eric Garner.

The Moore Family of Staten Island

In the wake of Sandy, Staten Islanders - white, black and blue-collar -- were coldly rebuffed by both the city and FEMA. And when Occupy Sandy took up the slack and set up shelters and food tents, the odious Bloomberg sent in the cops to shut them down and evict the Good Samaritans. It was apparently another one of those "quality of life" issues that so offended his elite sensibilities. (He'd previously cracked down on people donating food to homeless shelters, and called for the fingerprinting of food stamp applicants.)

Bloomberg may be gone, but his legacy of demonizing and demeaning poor and minority people remains a festering sore. And Staten Island is still locking its doors, while the cops are still locking and loading.

Bill Bramhall, New York Daily News