Eric Garner’s Death At The Hands Of NYPD Continues to Resonate: Spike Lee Creates Memorial As Key Witnesses Are Arrested

Niambi Sala 1/2 of the R&B/Soul duo, OSHUN. Reminding you that no…
Eric Garner's NYPD Induced Death Continues to Resonate -- Spike Lee Pays Homage x Key Witnesses Arrested

Eric Garner's NYPD Induced Death Continues to Resonate -- Spike Lee Pays Homage x Key Witnesses Arrested

Nearly a week after Eric Garner‘s death at the hands of NYPD police officers in Staten Island was ruled a homicide by the New York City medical examiner, the incident continues to resonate throughout the city — and the nation. Perhaps most visibly, Spike Lee — who, shortly after Garner’s death, responded to the atrocity by intercutting camera-phone footage from the chokehold incident with strikingly similar clips from his 25-year-old film, Do The Right Thing — made his feelings even plainer. Lee recently posted a large memorial photograph of Garner, created by artist Adrian Franks, outside his Brooklyn studio emblazoned with the words “I can’t breathe”, a quote from the viral video of his homicide. 

Meanwhile, even as the public eye is anxiously watching to see how the City will handle the tragedy, the NYPD appears to be handling it by going after those who had the courage to record it. Ramsey Orta, the man who recorded the viral video, was arrested on Saturday only minutes from where Eric Garner died. Staten Island narcotics officers charged Orta with two counts of criminal possession of a .25-caliber Norton semiautomatic handgun, according to the New York Times. Police claim they caught Orta tucking the firearm into the belt of teenager Alba Lekaj, who was also arrested for possession of a gun and marijuana possession. Ramsey Orta remains in police custody on $75,000 bail.

The plot thickened days later when Orta’s wife, Chrissie Ortiz, was arrested on assault charges following a dispute with another woman. While Ortiz was released with only a desk appearance ticket, she feels it is no coincidence that after Garner’s death was ruled a homicide, the key witness and his family are now being detained by NYPD. Now that Orta is awaiting his own trial, Eric Garner’s homicide trial has been delayed.

In response to these events, Reverend Al Sharpton, who is scheduled to appear in Washington on Monday to prompt the Justice Department to begin a civil rights investigation, called a news conference in Harlem. Reverend Sharpton explained that prosecuting Orta while simultaneously calling him as a key witness in the Garner case creates a serious conflict of interest. “Let the federal government handle it,” he urged, “so that there is no question about the objectivity of the investigation.”

Police union officials reportedly chastised Orta after his arrest, claiming that his detainment illustrates the dangers faced Staten Island officers face. Still Ortiz is not so quick to accept these attempts to discredit her husband’s name:

“They park across the street, they follow him,” Ortiz said. “I’m speaking [about] the NYPD. It’s obvious. Once they rule this a homicide, now you all of a sudden find something on him? Come on, let’s be realistic. Even the dumbest criminal would know not to be doing something like that outside. So the whole story doesn’t fit at all.”

Even as Rev. Sharpton joins the growing number of voices speaking up to demand justice for Garner and his family, the mood between police officers and people on the streets of New York is getting increasingly tense — as I found out firsthand.

I spent over four hours in a holding cell Wednesday night after being arrested at an MTA subway station for the offense of skating on the platform. I was the only female being held in that facility, so I was held separately from the male “prisoners” — but I could still hear them loud and clear in the cells adjacent to me. The officers did a good job playing “good cop” to the inmates they claimed were well-behaved, but one officer blew his cover the moment Garner’s name was mentioned.

“You shut up,” he yelled at the man behind bars. “You don’t know what you’re talking about! He was not choked to death, otherwise he would have died of strangulation! Check the autopsy!” he demanded.

The inmate responded, “I’ve watched the video hundreds of times,” to which the officer spat, “I’m sure you have. If he hadn’t resisted arrest, that wouldn’t have happened.”

I was silent. The officer’s reaction exposed a guilty conscious, one that could only be quieted by his screams of denial. It’s expected that police officers stick together, especially NYPD; but this was another type of unity. Being in that cell, experiencing firsthand the “hospitality” of the NYPD I felt awakened to what we the people are really up against. Although we still hope for justice in this case, we shouldn’t expect the NYPD to police themselves. So far, they’ve given every indication that they will protect each other in every capacity by any means necessary, and the only way we will overcome such blatant oppression is if we express that same oneness, that same unity.

Rest in peace, Eric Garner. May you never be forgotten and may we continue to fight for justice, peace and love.

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