Why wasn't the police officer who killed Eric Garner indicted?

It’s not about being blindly submissive to authority, it’s believing that the proper places to challenge authority in a democracy are the courtroom and the voting booth, not in the streets.

Soap box, ballot box, jury box, and the ammo box - In that order. It’s pithy but there’s some wisdom behind it.

This is where people get confused, the use of force in self defense is not unlawful when it is “mistaken.” Unless the state can prove malice or gross negligence beyond a reasonable doubt it is non “unlawful” (outside of the unlawful arrest above).

IN the following list are a few legal requirements that are fairly common across various states. #1 here has been removed in lots of states for citizens and police officers are exempted. The second applies to your claim, the standard is the legal fiction of the “reasonable person”.

In my state and in many other states the 3rd entry is what makes it very difficult to prosecute officers and privileged citizens of any form of homicide. If you are a member of a less than privileged group (E.G. brown, mentally ill, muslim) the jury and prosecutors may ignore the standard but it does exist.

It’s worth pointing out that it should be very difficult to prosecute someone of a crime. When the result of a prosecution can be many years of imprisonment and/or financial ruin, it’s absolutely necessary that the we are as certain as possible of guilt.

To bring this back on topic, it may be that Garner was unjustly killed. But that injustice would be compounded, not rectified, by treating the police who may have killed him unjustly.

Is there research on any link that may exist between whether a state allows resistance to unlawful arrests and whether police in that state or more or less likely to use unjustifiable force?

The number of cases where they could test that is tiny.

Many of them, like Ruby Ridge never end up making it to trial. If an officer thinks that the arrest is lawful then resistance to arrest is unlawful. It is also almost impossible to impeach the testimony of a cop who would knowingly commit an illegal arrest.

As a citizen, you’re not going know what information the police officer has and that makes it very very risky to resist with force.

In reality the only real effect of these laws are after the situation rises to a level that you will rarely if ever be in a better position by resisting.

The US has a long history of challenging bad behavior on the part of authority and society in the streets (which doesn’t necessarily mean violence). Without it, Civil Rights would probably not have occurred.

That’s what a trial is for. The purpose of a grand jury is only to determine whether there is sufficient evidence to warrant a trial. That’s what makes this outcome so disturbing, since it’s clear to most people that there was certainly evidence.

If Garner was unjustly killed – and there seems to be clear evidence that he likely was – then failing to take any legal action at all against the police officer does indeed compound the injustice. Remember that not only did the grand jury fail to indict him on murder charges, they didn’t indict him for anything.

The problem with criminalizing resistance is that it enables cops to act as abusively as want, confident in the knowledge that any defensive moves by their victim are lawfully subject to escalation and punishment regardless of the cop’s culpability or the person’s innocence. This not only puts way too much power in the hands of someone who can abuse it, but it means our constitutional protections become a joke–a thing that can be ignored and disrespected if the cops are targeting someone who lacks the means, time, or knowledge to seek compensation in court. Why this troublesome implication isn’t obvious to more people boggles me.

I don’t see what harm would come by not making it a crime to resist unlawful arrests, as long as the penalty for resisting lawful ones was severe enough to disincentivize willy nilly noncompliance. This would put some pressure on cops to make absolutely damn sure an arrest is necessary and lawful before they undertook it.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: if it wasn’t for people willing to resist abusive cops, we’d probably be living in more of a fascist state that we presently do. Resistance brings out the true ugliness in cops. It enables us to see what lengths they are willing to go to dominate and control, thus curing us of the delusion that they are all about serving and protecting. Some of them care about serving and protecting, but many of them are not much better than the criminals they lock up.

What you are ignoring is that most of those changes that resulted from people who “resist abusive cops” through non-violence…at least on the protesters side.

African-American Civil Rights Movement, Chicano Civil Rights Movement and Homosexual Civil Rights were all mostly won by nonviolent action.

What modern movement in the western world was defeated by violent resistance by a general population outside of the context of war?

Why do you think you is advocating violent resistance?

How was Garner violently resisting his arrest?

The labor movement fought armed combat in the streets against Pinkertons, militias, and cops. The right to a 40-hour work week, overtime pay, and other labor rights were won in part with violence.

There are some situations though that the average person’s qualifications are sufficient to know whether an arrest is legal or not. Those would tend to be when their constitutional protections are being violated. By criminalizing resistance no matter what’s at stake, it essentially means an officer has the discretion to ignore our rights if he/she believes we’re too weak to fight back. Either physically or litigiously.

If resistance in some cases was permissible, at least cops would have to worry about someone pushing back and not being penalized for such pushback. This is a much more natural check against abuse than reliance on the judicial system.

Because this part of the debate was about the legality of self-defense in relation to unlawful arrest.

In this context self-defense by definition is the use of force (violence).


](Legal Dictionary | Law.com)

I will ignore the second part which was pure straw-man.

Okay, but non-violent resistance is resistance…and its verboten in the eyes of the law. And I’m relieved that some people are willing to go against the law and resist when cops are overstepping. History has shown that going along with the flow doesn’t do anything encourage cops to see themselves as demigods.

Wow there…

That is out of complete left field and not related to the reality of my argument or the law at all. Where have I said it is or should be criminalized? I can not debate some dream position you make for my side of the debate.

FYI, The Freedom Riders probably could have used force but they also would have probably pushed back the movement by years in doing so.

Using violence to avoid arrest has a very high cost:benefit ratio. The cards are stacked against you in most ways. And even if you are “right” have a high risk of losing public support.

But I assume you can’t find cites to show violent resistance against unlawful arrests as a great catalyst of change?

That is an awesome point…for a different debate.

No it’s about whether we should make it against the law to resist arrest, even when the arrest is unlawful.

Resisting could be as simple as refusing to present one’s arms for cuffing, demanding not to be touched, or shifting one’s weight around to make it difficult to be grabbed. These are behaviors that Garner took.

If the cops were acting unlawfully by using force to arrest him (and I’m not saying that they necessarily were), the question before us is whether Garner’s resistance should be considered illegal. I say no on principle.

It just doesn’t happen that way, democracy has mechanisms to find a remedy before mass civil unrest - if it doesn’t, the democracy itself is approaching catastrophic failure.

Greece and Spain two summers ago illustrates exactly that.

A UK example is the Poll Tax riots of 1989:

I say it makes perfect sense to resist an arrest if you have good reason to feel that it is unlawful or that the charges are injust. By resisting, you draw attention to what is happening. By-standers provide a counterbalance to the usual “he said, she said”, and their video footage allows the entire incident to go up for public debate (as we are doing now for Eric Garner, like we did during the Civil Rights movement).

I mean, why should a citizen quietly submit to an arrest based on trumped-up charges? Sure, there is always the battle waiting in the courtroom…provided you have time and money, and you are sympathetic enough to convince the judge and jury that you were wrongly detained. But the masses most likely won’t be privy to those courtroom deliberations. Your best bet is to be loud and indignant at the initiation of the injustice, so that everyone who is in ear-shot can witness what’s going down and be informed about what their government is doing.

Being loud and indignant is not the same thing as being violent.