Longform

A White Cop's Killing of an Unarmed Black Man Catapults Phoenix Into America's New Civil Rights Movement

Righteous rage fills the air as a young African-American demonstrator yells through his bullhorn.

"We are fed up!" cries Jarvis Johnson, his face filled with emotion. "We are done! We want justice, and we want it now!"

Johnson's walking back and forth in the middle of the intersection of Seventh and Roosevelt streets in Phoenix on Friday, December 5, as fellow demonstrators (about 40) stage a "die-in," blocking traffic by lying in the street in protest over a wave of police killings of unarmed black men from New York City to Phoenix.


COMMENTARY


"This ain't no black thing," shouts another African-American man. "It ain't no white thing. It ain't no brown thing. It's a justice thing."

What began earlier as a smaller protest, spearheaded by some in the local activist community who may or may not refer to themselves as "anarchists," quickly grew to about 300 people.

One woman held the sign "I can't breathe, Eric Garner, RIP," referring to the July 17 killing of an unarmed black man in Staten Island, New York, as he was arrested by members of the New York Police Department.

Garner, 43, suffered from asthma and was confronted by the cops for the misdemeanor offense of selling loose, untaxed cigarettes.

Video taken by a friend of Garner's shows NYPD officer Daniel Pantaleo's taking down Garner with an illegal choke-hold.

Garner repeatedly complains that he can't breathe in the video, and we see Pantaleo pressing Garner's head into the sidewalk.

Garner passes out, later suffering a heart attack and dying.

The New York City Medical Examiner's Office ruled the death a homicide, caused in part by "the compression of his chest and prone positioning during physical restraint by police."

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Stephen is a former staff writer and columnist at Phoenix New Times.
Contact: Stephen Lemons