As this article takes pains to declare: “it is the height of irresponsibility and depravity for a man to end up dead for selling loose cigarettes.”
And yet he did.
In 2010, the New York State Legislature passed a law raising taxes on cigarettes purchased in New York City to $5.85 per pack of 20 cigarettes.
Fast-forward four years: A U.S. senator is blaming the politician that created that law for the chokehold death of Eric Garner, an unarmed black man, by a white police officer in New York City in July 2014.
“I do blame the politician,” Sen. Rand Paul, R-Kentucky, explained on MSNBC’s “Hardball.” “We put our police in a dangerous situation with bad laws.”
Crazy talk? Let’s dig deeper:
The law that led to this confrontation was pressed forward by former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg; Garner had been arrested some eight times for selling “loosies.” As Lawrence McQuillan reported in The Washington Times:
In January 2014, tough new penalties for selling untaxed cigarettes took effect in New York City. In July, emboldened by the new law, the city’s highest-ranking uniformed cop, Philip Banks, issued an order to crack down on loosie sales days before Garner died.
So in terms of police cracking down on Garner, the real responsibility lies with Bloomberg and NYPD Chief Bill Bratton. Idiot laws lead to meaningless deaths.
I did some sleuthing. New York State’s (and New York City’s) cigarette taxes are the highest in the country. Drive to New Jersey with an empty trunk and you can load up on ciggies taxed at $2.70 a pack. Drive a little farther and you can get them in Pennsylvania for $1.60. Make a road trip to Virginia, King Tobacco, and it’s a mere 30¢ a pack—almost twenty times less than the tax rate in New York City. (By the way, the Feds stick their own $1.01 tax on every pack.)
No wonder Eric Garner did a brisk business selling loosies.
Especially in a poorer neighborhood in Staten Island:
Progressives claim to care for the poor, yet the 18.1 percent of Americans who still smoke are disproportionately poor.
A 2012 study for the New York State Department of Health found that smokers in households making less than $30,000 a year spent on average 23.6 percent — nearly one dollar in four — of household income on cigarettes. New York’s cigarette taxes are regressive, hurting poor people most.
Eric Garner may have been the “dealer”, but the drug kingpin was the federal, state, and local government determined to get their cut. Collected by the “goons” sent to “explain the situation” to him. Illegal aliens are legal without even the wave of a pen; marijuana possession is rarely a crime anymore; but selling individual cigarettes (so expensive because their cost is doubled by taxes) is a crime punishable by death. If not by intent, by inevitability.
Inevitable not least due to Garner’s health:
At issue in this case is the so-called “chokehold” used by Pantaleo. Chokeholds have been banned by the NYPD entirely since 1993; chokeholds are typically defined as holds that prevent people from breathing. Thanks to the video showing Garner stating that he cannot breathe, many pundits have wrongly suggested that Pantaleo was “choking” Garner by depriving him of air from his windpipe. Bratton himself suggested that Pantaleo used a “chokehold,” which is defined by the NYPD as “any pressure to the throat or windpipe, which may prevent or hinder breathing or reduce intake of air.”
That does not appear to have been the case. Garner did not die of asphyxiation, as the head of the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association noted at the time. The preliminary autopsy showed no damage to Garner’s windpipe or neck bones.
So what was Pantaleo doing? He was applying a submission hold, which is not barred by the NYPD, and is designed to deprive the brain of oxygen by stopping blood flow through the arteries. So say the experts on submission holds.
It appears that the so-called chokehold was instrumental in triggering Garner’s pre-existing health problems and causing his death, but Garner was not choked to death, as the media seems to maintain. According to Garner’s friends, he “had several health issues: diabetes, sleep apnea, and asthma so severe that he had to quit his job as a horticulturist for the city’s parks department. He wheezed when he talked and could not walk a block without resting, they said.”
His being able to shout “I can’t breathe!” several times is proof that he could breathe, however impaired his breathing was. I’ve experimented with a little grappling in my martial arts training (very little because I don’t like it). The very first thing you are taught is how to surrender, which is by tapping, not speaking. Many submission holds restrict airflow: you can think “I give up”, but if you can’t say it, you’re screwed. Garner could speak.
But that’s not the same as breathing. Asthma, a weak heart, diabetes—that’s what killed him, triggered by the stress of an arrest that should have been handled better. I heard a doctor call into Dennis Miller’s radio show and say that Garner’s size was not indicative of a behemoth, but of someone morbidly obese, who should have been handled even more carefully. He thought the cops should have known that.
I wish they had. I wish they had talked him down instead of taken him down, even though his “this ends today” rhetoric perhaps left them no chance. But I also wish the police had been instructed to apply the same laxity of law enforcement toward “black market” distribution of a legal product as they are instructed to ignore illegal marijuana and illegal aliens. And I wish the city didn’t so strenuously apply its usurious tax rates on its poorest citizens.
Sure, they should quit smoking. But ask President Obama, whose nicorette gum habit so insulted the Chinese on a state visit, how easy that is.
Bob Dylan once wrote a song, “Who Killed Davey Moore?” about a boxer who died in a bout. In Dylan’s telling, the ref, the opponent, the manager, the gambler, the sports writer, and the crowd all profess their innocence. Who killed Eric Garner? There’s a long list.