In the wake of the grand jury decision to not indict the police officer responsible for the death of Eric Garner in New York City, Chair of the CRCDS Board of Trustees Bishop Jack M. McKelvey and CRCDS President Dr. Marvin A. McMickle shared their thoughts with the Rochester, NY Democrat and Chronicle.
Bishop McKelvey’s letter to the editor is available online through the link provided below. For your convenience, the actual text is provided as well.
Dr. McMickle’s editorial was taken from his most recent Unite Rochester blog posting. The link to Dr. McMickle’s piece is available below along with the complete text.
FROM BISHOP JACK M. MCKELVEY
In the wake of the grand jury decision regarding the Eric Garner case in New York City, one could raise the question as to why we need expensive police cameras in order to get justice. What more do we need than a video of action taken by police, a medical examiner's report and the verbal sounds of the victim saying "I can't breathe" to have the situation taken before a jury of the perpetrators peers? Does it not seem obvious that the issue is not video evidence, but rather how we come to decisions which allow the courts of law to act and justice to be done?
JACK M. McKELVEY
The writer is a retired Episcopal Bishop of the Diocese of Rochester.
FROM PRESIDENT MARVIN A. MCMICKLE
Here We Go Again
In his book, The Souls of Black Folk, written in 1903, W.E.B. Du Bois said "The problem of the twentieth century will be the problem of the color line." As it happens, the problem of the color line has followed us into the 21st century with a pattern of white police officers using deadly force against unarmed black males in cities across the United States.
While the nation is still reeling from the decision in Ferguson, Missouri not to indict officer Darren Wilson in the shooting death of Michael Brown, we have now heard that another white police officer in New York City will not be indicted in the death of Eric Garner.
The New York City Medical Examiner did an autopsy on his body and concluded that his death was "a homicide" caused by the use of an illegal choke hold that was banned by the New York City Police Department in 1993! This death played out on national TV for all the world to see. Eric Garner was unarmed. Eric Garner was suspected of selling loose cigarettes. Six police officers were involved in his take-down, and all six police officers doubtlessly heard Eric Garner say 11 times "I can't breathe."
No doubt some people will blame Eric Garner for this death, because they will say he was resisting arrest. Others will say he was guilty of selling loose cigarettes and not paying taxes. All of these issues could have been resolved if there had been an indictment that would have been followed by a trial where guilt or innocence could have been determined. Instead, the pattern continues of the death of unarmed black males being killed as a result of excessive force being used by white police officers.
For many black people, the words of Du Bois still seem relevant: The American problem is the problem of the color line. In the same book, Du Bois talked about his own feeling of "double consciousness" in which he felt the conflicts and limitations of being "an American and a Negro." That is the feeling that is spreading across black communities in this country with this string of deaths that are not even resulting in an indictment, much less a conviction.
We are, as always, grateful for the efforts of Bishop McKelvey and Dr. McMickle to elevate and inform public discourse, particularly on such a vitally important justice issue.