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Eric Garner Death Due to Cigarette Tax

Posted by Steve Markowitz on December 7, 2014

There have been two grand jury decisions in recent weeks that have torn at the fabric of American society. While both involve African American males killed by police officers, they involve very different circumstances.

michael brownIn Ferguson, Missouri, Officer Darren Wilson was acquitted by a grand jury of any criminal wrongdoing in the death of Michael Brown. The evidence made public confirms that Brown was involved in a robbery at a convenience store a few minutes before he was shot. It also shows that Brown attacked Wilson while the policeman was in his squad car and attempted to take the officer’s gun. Finally, African-American witnesses testified that Brown charged Wilson as he was being shot.

Given the evidence, the grand jury had no choice but to find Wilson innocent. However, the reaction of many protestors, rioters, and the mainstream media avoids the facts and instead created the inflammatory rally cry; “hands up, don’t shoot,” meant to promote the false narrative that a white cop maliciously shot an unarmed black man that was attempting to give himself up. The results have been tragic with businesses and property in Ferguson being destroyed and race-relations deteriorating to historic lows in the country.

Shortly after the Darren Wilson decision, a gran jury in in New York decided not to indict Officer Daniel Pantaleo in the choking death of Eric Garner. In this incident, Garner was confronted by the police for selling single cigarettes on a New York City street for $1 each. This is a substantial discount from cigarettes purchased within the City that include its huge sin tax. By purchasing cigarettes outside the City, Garner was able to bring a bit of capitalistic spirit to the benefit of himself and purchasers. However, the loser would be the City who stood to loose tax revenues.

While this Blog has difficult finding empathy for those who find wrongdoing in the Michael Brown incident, we are troubled by the events that lead to the death of Eric Garner. Garner was involved with a victimless crime. The police were and are inappropriately tasked with addressing a matter whose only beneficiary is the local and State taxing authorities. Had they not been given this questionable charge, Michael Brown would be alive today.

eric garnerSociety is quick to find racism as the cause when a victim is a person of color. In the Michael Brown incident the facts do not back this narrative and those that promote it either refuse to review the evidence or have more nefarious agendas.

The Eric Garner matter is more complex. Clearly the victim was black and just as clear the police over reacted. However, given that the sergeant in charge at the scene was a black officer, it is hard to make this about race. Still, there is ugliness here that a victimless action that shouldn’t have been a crime was made criminal and that resulted in Garner’s tragic and uncalled for death. Not only should our law enforcement have other priorities, but this tragedy shows the danger of the creping power grab taken at all levels of the government. The Progressives that are so quick to blame the police fear this broader and necessary discussion.


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