A Mishawaka, Indiana police officer, who also owns an apparel company in South Bend, created t-shirts in response to all the t-shirts bearing Eric Garner’s final words, “I can’t breathe.” Jason Barthel, the creator of these shirts, thinks he’s doing police officers a service by responding. However, all he’s really doing is adding to the problem by showing how tone-deaf some officers—and many conservatives—are about the entire thing.
Here’s a sketch of the shirt:
Tea Party News Network wrote a glowing article about the shirts – because apparently if you’re breaking the law, you have only yourself to blame if you die. You see, it doesn’t matter if you weren’t threatening anyone. The police would never have bothered you to begin with if you’d just followed the law. There’s no such thing as excessive use of force.
“Breathe easy. Don’t break the law.”
Of course, the Tea Party News Network also totally, utterly, and completely missed the entire point of Barthel’s statements, and had to bring the “alleged” racism issue up. They said that everyone’s forgetting one thing that happened to Eric Garner that absolves the police of any racism: The whole sad scene was supervised by a black, female police officer. So, there couldn’t be racism, and Garner still deserved to die, because a black, female police officer supervised.
And, well, Garner broke the law by selling cigarettes illegally. Behind the barrel of a gun. Oh wait, no, no guns. No weapons at all. Just illegal cigarette sales. Without a threat to someone’s life, did he really have to die? Police are supposed to be trained not to use deadly force just to subdue a suspect. Resisting arrest is not an excuse, and there can be no excuse for just standing there while Garner had a medical emergency and struggled to breathe.
Why did Barthel start selling the shirts? According to the Daily Herald, he said:
“The problem is we have a lot of people who are trying to create problems between the citizens and the people who try to protect them. When you break the law, unfortunately there’s going to be consequences, and some of them aren’t going to be pretty. Unfortunately that’s the reality.”
That’s true, there will be consequences to breaking the law. Do those consequences necessarily include your death when you aren’t threatening anybody, though? Is that really the message that he wants to get out there?
Apparently so. But it’s confusing. According to WSBT Mishawaka, Barthel also said:
“We are not here to do anything negative to the public. We’re here to protect the public and we want you to breathe easy knowing that the police are here to be with you and for you and protect you.”
Reeeeeeallly. But, if someone breaks the law and you kill them, regardless of whether anybody’s life even appeared to be at stake, one of the possible consequences is their death. That’s not protecting the public. That’s not being there for the public. That’s attempting to keep the public in line by instilling fear—which gets to the heart of the problem we have here.
It’s truly sad that a police officer would come out and try to justify Garner’s death by concluding that he broke the law and breaking the law should have that kind of a consequence. That’s not meant to make us feel better. That’s meant to scare us. And that’s what’s increasingly wrong with police, and the conservatives that agree with these types of sentiments.
“Breathe easy. Don’t break the law.” No, knowing that is the attitude, it’s hard to breathe easy.