One year after Eric Garner’s death, we still are not safe
By Dante Barry, Executive Director, Million Hoodies Movement for Justice
MSNBC.com, 07/17/15 12:30 PM—Updated 07/21/15 06:12 PM
One year has passed since the death of Eric Garner and it seems New Yorkers are still living in Michael Bloomberg’s “two cities.”
In 2013, Bill de Blasio campaigned to replace the longtime mayor with a platform advocating police reform and economic populism. He won his campaign by echoing the words of protest movements and promising to help those most impacted by policing, poverty, and criminalization. But while de Blasio as mayor has reined in the city’s “stop-and-frisk” policing practice, Police Commissioner Bill Bratton has revved up so-called “broken windows” policing.
Last year, the death of Eric Garner – captured on video as he was placed in a fatal chokehold by NYPD Officer Daniel Pantaleo – helped catalyze a movement for police accountability and the release of videos of police violence being uploaded daily.
From New York to Ferguson and Baltimore, communities everywhere have flooded the streets to demand an end to police brutality and recognition that black lives matter.
#BlackLivesMatter isn’t the only movement to utilize the Internet in the pursuit of our goals, and there are forces much larger than us conspiring to ensure that we do not achieve these goals. Police and corporations are partnering to use the Internet to further criminalize black lives. Predictive policing and surveillance tools are a direct threat to black and poor communities of color. An architect of broken windows policing, Bratton declared 2015 the year of technology for law enforcement. That means license plate readers, facial recognition, body cameras, and Stingray cell phone interceptors – all advanced surveillance technologies that exacerbate racially-biased policing and further criminalizes black lives.
The response to this growing movement has been anemic. Task forces were formed and body cameras funded, but conversations in the halls of power have focused exclusively on tweaking, not truly reforming policing practices. New York has a lot of work to do to bring real systemic change to the NYPD.
Legislatively, community groups have advocated for the passage of the Right to Know Act, which would require the police officers to tell New Yorkers their right to refuse a search when there is no probably cause or a warrant. Most recently, Gov. Andrew Cuomo has called for the appointment of special prosecutors for police killings to be a national model after families and survivors of police violence successfully lobbied the governor to appoint a special prosecutor. But this moment calls for more and the movement won’t stop until our demands have been met.