George W. Bush Says Eric Garner Decision "Hard to Understand," So Even He Gets It
Over the last several days, countless political figures, pundits, activists and advocates have offered their opinions on the Eric Garner grand jury decision, an outcome which has embroiled New York City in large-scale protests over police use of force. Despite being captured on video performing a chokehold on unarmed 43-year-old Staten Island resident Eric Garner, which caused Garner to suffer a fatal heart attack, NYPD officer Daniel Pantaleo was not indicted by the grand jury. And even a former Republican President has spoken out: George W. Bush called the Eric Garner decision "hard to understand" in an interview with CNN's Candy Crowley Friday, becoming just another in a string of unusually conservative voices to cast doubt on the Pantaleo non-indictment.
Of course, there's an easily understandable reason why some right-wingers you'd typically expect to line up behind law enforcement have ceded the bizarre and troubling conclusion the grand jury reached — because the entire Garner encounter was recorded, and we all got to see it. While it's easy to grimly conclude that President Obama's proposal for police officer body cameras nationwide, also supported by the family of slain Ferguson teen Michael Brown, is proven to be useless by the Garner case, that isn't entirely so. The true value of such cameras, even as a full visual record wasn't enough to indict Pantaleo, is that all reasonable people virtually must confront the problem, unless their heads are well and truly in the sand.
You know, the verdict was hard to understand. But I hadn't seen all the details -- but it's sad that race continues to play such an emotional, divisive part of life. ... I had dinner with Condi [Rice[ the other night, we talked about this subject, and yeah -- she just said, you gotta understand that there are a lot of black folks that are incredibly, more and more, distrusting of law enforcement. Which is a shame, because law enforcement's job is to protect everybody.
While it's not exactly a radical endorsement of the #BlackLivesMatter movement, and you wouldn't expect such a thing from Bush — he's been every bit the controversial "law-and-order" trumpeting Republican you'd expect throughout his career, especially in his presiding over Texas' death penalty apparatus as governor in the 90s — he did concede the blinding reality that the video of Garner's fatal encounter lays bare.
Namely, that a non-indictment is hard to figure out in any rational, good-faith context, practically defying logic when you watch the harmless, visibly choking Garner lying pinned to the pavement. (I'm not going to embed the video of the encounter here, because it's your choice whether to view something so grisly. If you want, you can see it easily — just type "eric garner video" into Google.)
Protests over the Garner decision will no doubt be ongoing in the coming days and weeks, and at the very least the family that Garner leaves behind — a wife and six children — are appreciative.
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