We have found the new normal in America.
If you are truly outraged by some action of police, prosecutors, grand juries, or courts, you can shut down the heart of a great city.
Thursday night, thousands of “protesters” disrupted the annual Christmas tree lighting at Rockefeller Center, conducted a “lie-in” in Grand Central, blocked Times Square, and shut down the West Side Highway that scores of thousands of New Yorkers use to get home.
That the rights of hundreds of thousands of visitors and New Yorkers were trampled upon by these self-righteous protesters did not prevent their being gushed over by TV commentators.
Watching cable, I saw one anguished man cry out from a blocked car that he was trying to get his sick dog to the vet. But his rights were inferior to the rights of protesters to block traffic, chant slogans and vent their moral outrage to TV cameras.
From New York to Washington to Oakland, crowds acted in solidarity to block main arteries at rush hour.
Has President Obama condemned this? Has Eric Holder?
Remarkable. Underlings of Gov. Chris Christie have been under investigation for a year for closing off lanes to the George Washington Bridge. Contrast liberal indignation at Christie, with liberal indulgence of the lawbreaking Thursday night, and you will see what people mean when they talk of a moral double-standard.
What were these protests about? A grand jury on Staten Island voted not to indict NYPD officer Daniel Pantaleo in the death of Eric Garner last July. As the video that has gone global shows, Pantaleo sought to arrest Garner, a 6’5″, 350-pound man arrested many times before.
What was Garner doing?
Selling cigarettes one by one on a main street, a public nuisance for the stores and shops in front of which he plied his trade, but not a felony, and surely not a capital offense. A misdemeanor at most.
As Garner backed away and brushed aside attempts to handcuff him, Pantaleo grabbed him from behind by the neck to pull him down, as other cops swarmed in.
Repeatedly, Garner cried, “I can’t breathe!” On the ground he again cried, “I can’t breathe!” And he died there on the sidewalk.
Undeniably, terrible and tragic. Undeniably, not a natural death. And, undeniably, the way Garner was brought down and sat upon, an arm around his neck, contributed to, if it did not cause, his death.
Yet Garner did not die by strangulation. According to the city medical examiner, he died from the “compression of chest and prone positioning during physical restraint by police.”
The cops were holding him down by sitting on him.
As Rep. Peter King said Thursday, “If [Garner] had not had asthma and a heart condition and was so obese, he would not have died.” The Washington Post reports that the medical examiner seemed to confirm this, describing “Garner’s asthma and hypertensive cardiovascular disease as contributing factors.”
Why would a Staten Island grand jury not indict Pantaleo for murder or manslaughter in the death of Eric Garner?
In a word, intent.
Did Pantaleo intend to kill Eric Garner when he arrived on the scene? Did Pantaleo arrive intent on injuring Eric Garner? No and no.
Pantaleo was there to arrest Garner, and if he resisted, to subdue him and then arrest him. That was his job.
Did he use a chokehold, which the NYPD bans, or a takedown method taught at the police academy, as his lawyer contends?
That is for the NYPD to decide. The grand jury, viewing the video, decided that the way Pantaleo brought down Garner was not done with any criminal intent to kill or injure him, but to arrest him.
Garner’s death, they decided, was accidental, caused by Pantaleo and the other NYPD cops who did not intend his injury or death, with Garner’s asthma and heart disease as contributing factors.
Now that grand jury decision may be wrong, but does it justify wild allegations of “racist cops” getting away with “murder”?
This reflexive rush to judgment happens again and again.
We were told Trayvon Martin was shot to death by a white vigilante for “walking while black,” and learned that Trayvon, when shot, had been beating a neighborhood watch guy nearly unconscious, “martial arts style,” while sitting on top of him.
We were told that Ferguson cop Darren Wilson gunned down an unarmed black teenager for walking in the street, and learned that Michael Brown just robbed a convenience store, attacked Wilson in his patrol car, and was shot trying to wrestle away the officer’s gun.
Liberals are imprisoned by a great myth — that America is a land where black boys and men are stalked by racist white cops, and alert and brave liberals must prevent even more police atrocities.
They live in a world of the mind.
The reality: As of 2007, black-on-white violent crime was nearly 40 times as common as the reverse. But liberals can’t give up their myth, for it sustains their pretensions to moral superiority. It defines who they are.
Patrick J. Buchanan is the author of the new book “The Greatest Comeback: How Richard Nixon Rose From Defeat to Create the New Majority.”
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