“I can’t breathe!” — Final Project by Macy Woitzel

Posted on December 11, 2014 by


My analysis will cover the aftermath and multitude of reactions around the world over the death of Eric Garner. After being strangled to death during his brutal arrest back in July, the grand jury decided on Wednesday, December 3rd not to indict the police officer who was responsible for his death. This decision has struck many on not only a deeply emotional level, but also religiously.

            Protesters blocking the road after grand jury decision.

On July 17th, Garner was held down and arrested due to “selling untaxed cigarettes”. During his arrest, Huffington Post reported that officer Daniel Pantaleo used a banned chokehold move on Garner, resulting in his death. Seen in the video of his arrest, which has gone viral, the viewer is able to clearly hear Garner yell “I can’t breathe!” multiple times before his body goes limp due to lack of oxygen. The grand jury’s decision could not have come at a more vulnerable time being so soon after the decision to also not indict the police officer who shot and killed Michael Brown back in August.

Many activists and especially religious leaders have began to speak out on this matter. One Reverend, Jeff Hood, stated that “Jesus is saying ‘I can’t breathe'” and that “police officers have to learn to love their neighbor”. I believe that the media, as well as the public, have latched on to these quotes expressing an ignorant view on the police force as a whole. Clinging on to the authority given to Hood due to his status as a reverend, society has placed police under a violent generalization that all officers are corrupt. The media has done a poor job at expressing the opposite view of this grand juries decision. Rather, they have decided to focus on the out lash of citizens who are ill informed in the particular matter. However, Huffington Post did publish a statement from Bishop Victor A. Brown, a Senior Pastor out of Staten Island. Brown stated, “The grand jury was within their purview to come up with the decision they thought was proper and they’ve done that. It’s very important for people to understand that the family still has options.”

As well as placing such authority in the title of reverend, celebrities have started to use their fame to show their concern in the matter. From singers to high caliber athletes such as Kobe Bryant and LeBron James dressed in black shirts with Garner’s last words boldly printed, those of high publicity and who posses an importance to their community are taking a stand.

                  NBA Lakers wearing “I CAN’T BREATHE” t-shirts during warm-ups.

Throughout this semester, I have learned that placing authority in the hands of people just because of their title, or status, can become extremely detrimental to society. This case in particular is an excellent example. Although many religious leaders are not throwing out such generalized opinions as Rev. Hood, I do believe that when deciding on a side in such a controversial matter, you need to throughly weigh both arguments. I can not say whether I agree or disagree with the grand juries decision;however, I will continue to explore both sides of the issue.

Macy Woitzel

Work Cited

“Grand Jury Decides to Indict NYPD Officer is Chokehold Death of Eric Garner” Huffington Post. 1/3/2014.

“Eric Garner Dies After Being Put in a Chokehold by Police” Youtube. 7/19/2014.

Clarke and Lett. “What happened when Michael Brown met Officer Darren Wilson” CNN. 11/11/2014.

Kuruville and Blumberg. “Right Now Jesus Is Saying: I Can’t Breathe’ Religious Leaders React To The Non-Indictment in                     Garner Case” Huffington Post. 12/05/2014.

“Celebrities Show Support for the Eric garner and Ferguson Protests” VH1. 12/11/2014.

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