Activities & Organizations News

Students protest for Eric Garner, others discuss tactics

The Student Feminists Organization held a “die-in” protest after a jury decided not to indict a police officer in connection with the death of Eric Garner on Friday in front of the Gerald D. Hines College of Architecture.

On July 17, Garner died after New York City Police Officer Daniel Pantaleo placed him in a choke hold. Pantaleo and officer Justin Damico approached Garner after they suspected he was selling non-taxed cigarettes. The fatal encounter was caught on video, and after a jury decided not to indict on Wednesday, it reignited protests across the country that have blocked freeways and major streets in big cities.

At the UH protest, black students laid on the grass while their student allies surrounded them, standing up and holding hands. Creative writing junior Celestina Billington, one of the organizers for the event, said the protest was organized to bring awareness to the use of force by police officers against black Americans.

“We needed it to be shown that we will not stand for police brutality towards African-Americans specifically,” Billington said.

The use of police force, especially toward African-Americans, has been a national topic of discussion since a grand jury in Ferguson, Mo. decided not to indict a police officer who shot and killed unarmed black teenager Michael Brown in late November. Brown’s death sparked protests nationwide, including some in Houston and at UH.

However, on Friday, some students questioned the protest tactic, saying that it separated them instead of bringing them together. Chemistry sophomore Edwin Mascorro was invited to the demonstration but said he felt it divided students.

“I’m definitely for the cause; it’s a good cause for it,” Mascorro said. “But when reading the procedures on how the group decided to do the process, (we’re) at a moment in time where this country really needs to be together, not separated. Because of what’s going on between races in America, (and) being that this is the University of Houston – where diversity is major – I don’t think I would support a protest that divides the students in any way. We need to bring them together.”

Political science senior Marcus Smith said it all comes down to understanding. Smith said people should take a unified stance as an American population to achieve social change.

“The youth has always been the forefront of achieving change,” Smith said. “And the University being the center of the community, being close to the community has responsibility, to some extent, to really try to see what they can do, of being those type of leaders. That is what the University is for: ‘house of innovation,’ (and) ‘Cougar pride.’ I think if everybody thinks in that way, we’ll see a more positive change, and I expect things to grow in the future.”

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  • Sources in the mainstream media expressed outrage after a grand jury declined to indict a New York City policeman in the death of Eric Garner, but there are 11
    significant facts that many of them have chosen to overlook:

    1. There is no doubt that Garner was resisting an arrest for illegally selling
    untaxed cigarettes. Former New York City Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik put
    it succinctly: “You cannot resist arrest. If Eric Garner did not resist arrest,
    the outcome of this case would have been very different,” he told Newsmax. “He
    wouldn’t be dead today.

    “Regardless of what the arrest was for, the officers don’t have the ability to say, ‘Well, this is a minor arrest, so we’re just going to ignore you.’”

    2. The video of the July 17 incident clearly shows Garner, an African-American,
    swatting away the arms of a white officer seeking to take him into custody,
    telling him: “Don’t touch me!”

    3. Garner, 43, had history of more than 30 arrests dating back to 1980, on charges
    including assault and grand larceny.

    4. At the time of his death, Garner was out on bail after being charged with
    illegally selling cigarettes, driving without a license, marijuana possession
    and false impersonation.

    5. The chokehold that Patrolman Daniel Pantaleo put on Garner was reported to have contributed to his death. But Garner, who was 6-foot-3 and weighed 350 pounds, suffered from a number of health problems, including heart disease, severe
    asthma, diabetes, obesity, and sleep apnea. Pantaleo’s attorney and police
    union officials argued that Garner’s poor health was the main cause of his

    6. Garner did not die at the scene of the confrontation. He suffered cardiac
    arrest in the ambulance taking him to the hospital and was pronounced dead
    about an hour later.

    7. Much has been made of the fact that the use of chokeholds by police is prohibited in New York City. But officers reportedly still use them. Between 2009 and mid-2014, the Civilian Complaint Review Board received 1,128 chokehold

    Patrick Lynch, president of the New York City Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, said: “It was clear that the officer’s intention was to do nothing more than take Mr.
    Garner into custody as instructed, and that he used the takedown technique that
    he learned in the academy when Mr. Garner refused.”

    8. The grand jury began hearing the case on Sept. 29 and did not reach a decision
    until Wednesday, so there is much testimony that was presented that has not
    been made public.

    9. The 23-member grand jury included nine non-white jurors.

    10. In order to find Officer Pantaleo criminally negligent, the grand jury would have
    had to determine that he knew there was a “substantial risk” that Garner would
    have died due to the takedown.

    11. Less than a month after Garner’s death, Ramsey Orta, who shot the much-viewed videotape of the encounter, was indicted on weapons charges. Police alleged that Orta had slipped a .25-caliber handgun into a teenage accomplice’s
    waistband outside a New York hotel.

    • So I kind of fail to see the relevance of points 1, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 10, or 11 to begin with. Let’s jump in:
      1/3/4 – The question isn’t so much if he committed a crime so much as if it’s okay for something relatively minor to result in the death of the culprit. If we executed people for shoplifting it’d be an issue.

      5 – The coroner said the chokehold was the cause of death. I’m taking the medical examiner’s word on this. Be honest, if the medical examiner exonerated the cop and said it was unrelated, you’d be posting the statistic all over the web.

      6 – And sometimes it takes gunshot victims an hour to die. Your point?

      7 – The police have broken the rules 1,100 + times. Isn’t that even more evidence that the police system is broken? If use of tazers were banned for police officers, I would expect the people we pay to enforce the law to understand that.

      8 – Yeah, but the evidence we have is pretty damning.

      10 – I feel like the fact that a move’s been banned by the NYPD implies that there’s a substantial risk associated with it.

      11 – Who care? Frickin’ Hitler could’ve been holding the camera. It doesn’t change what’s on the video.

  • Creating a false meme right before our eyes. This is what journalism is all about: Ignore the truth, support what the masses want instead.


    The August 9, 2014 shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO by Officer Darren
    Wilson was the origin of a national myth. Myths are sacred stories that serve
    to explain the world view of a people. They often originate as distorted
    accounts of real historical events that storytellers repeatedly elaborate on
    until the primary figure in the account achieves the status of a saint or a
    god. A culture’s myths provide a sense of identity, shared lifestyle, affirm
    beliefs and values and are expressed in symbols and rituals. A national myth is
    a fictional narrative that omits important historical details, or adds details
    where there is no evidence, but is held as true due to its symbolic meaning for
    the nation. Michael Brown has become the symbol of racism, police brutality and
    social injustice. Evidence is irrelevant because myths are symbolic not literal

    Disregarding forensic evidence and a grand jury decision is necessary and required to perpetuate the national myth of institutionalized racism, oppression and
    inequality. The mythology functions as a method to demonize police, inculcate
    fear, justify violence, promote vengeance and achieve political agendas. The
    death of Michael Brown has been formatted and packaged by the mainstream media that serve as an outlet for state-sponsored propaganda. Correspondents use
    selective and biased reporting to propagate the national mythology. However,
    protest signs, graffiti, hand signs, flags, masks and other symbols in Ferguson
    reveal a different alternative narrative.

  • at the end of the day, no “loose untaxed ciggarette” is worth a life. anybody saying that OH WELL IF HE DID DO THIS HE WOULD BE ALIVE, you are basically saying the police can murder anybody for the simplest reason and get away with it. ok he broke the law, but the chokehold was banned in NYC, and the officer using the chokehold IS also breaking the law. where is his accountability?? if the public is afraid to even call police for emergencies then there is a problem. no matter how anybody puts it and no matter how many technicalities there are, he killed someone….over a ciggarette. he will always be known as the cop who killed over a ciggarette. no matter how anybody puts it. he killed someone and it was NOT in a life threatening situation. it was a minor arrest that turned deadly. u dont need a degree to know right from wrong.

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