Those who saw Eric Garner put his hands up and say, “I’m minding my business, officer, I’m minding my business. Please just leave me alone. I told you the last time, please just leave me alone.”
What of those who saw this happen? Did their guts squirm? Did their consciences push, “Say something. Break the tension. Speak up!”
Did a fear of blue anger being turned upon them bring them to silence?
They did what they thought they could do: pull out a cell phone and film the scene play out.
When Justin Damico approached, Ramsey Orta recorded the moment.
Did he think it would stop at a conversation?
When the other cops swarmed in.
Ramsey kept filming.
When Eric pulled his hands away from Daniel Pantaleo’s handcuffs.
When Daniel wrapped his arms around Eric’s neck.
Ramsey kept filming. Everyone stood by.
Did they imagine it would stop when handcuffs were attached?
When Daniel and Eric hit the glass window.
When Eric was lowered to the ground.
He kept filming.
Were they all too shocked to act? Or was this abuse so common all they could do anymore was stand silent, bearing witness.
When Eric gasped, “I can’t breathe,” it was locked into Ramsey’s phone.
“I can’t breathe.”
“I can’t breathe.”
When Kizzy Adoni didn’t intercede to stop her officer from keeping an illegal chokehold on Eric for 15 seconds … while he would gasp, “I can’t breathe,” eight more times.
Again he gasped, “I can’t breathe,” and no one stepped forward.
Six more times, he would gasp, “I can’t breathe.”
Five times, he would gasp, “I can’t breathe.”
Four, he would gasp, “I can’t breathe.”
Three, he would gasp, “I can’t breathe.”
Two, he gasped, “I can’t breathe.”
One gasp, “I can’t breathe.”
While he laid on the ground, unresponsive for seven minutes, no one took action. Death creeped in and they kept filming, bearing witness.
So many were involved, so many watched the crime unfold. An unarmed man was confronted and attacked. So many passed by and remained silent.
After he was dead and no one was held accountable, people took to the streets. Movements grew, but police violence continues. Those responsible were not held accountable. And those who silently witnessed were outraged.
Witnesses continue to film, but who steps in? How many silently witness as anger and hatred spread death. How many more will die? Their deaths posted for our consumption, while we wring our hands and watch the viral videos on YouTube.
Our silence is deadly. If we do not take action, we hold the world back.