Justice for Eric Garner!

On July 17, 2014 Eric Garner was held in a chokehold by an NYPD officer until motionless. Eric Garner died shortly after being taken away in an ambulance.  The incident was captured on film, and Garner’s death was declared homicide by the medical examiner.

The police officer responsible for Eric Garner’s death was not indicted.  Since the announcement of the grand jury’s decision not to indict, thousands upon thousands have marched, sat-in, blocked traffic and shut down bridges demanding justice for the death of Eric Garner and his family.

MORE, the social justice caucus of the UFT, stands with the Garner family and all the thousands calling for justice.  We encourage New York City Educators to organize their coworkers and march on NYC on Dec. 13th to demand an immediate end to police brutality and justice for Eric Garner.

As educators in New York City, we work with and are part of communities that are most affected by racist policing practices in this city.  We work everyday with young people that are constantly criminalized, stopped, frisked on their way to and from school and sometimes even arrested inside our school buildings. The lack of even an indictment in the Eric Garner case reflects the deep-seeded discrimination prevalent in the institutions of our justice system.  Sadly, these dramatic inequities are also perpetuated in our public schools. In the last decade, Black students, who represent 33% of the student population in NYC, received 53% of suspensions, and were more likely to be suspended for minor misbehavior.i   They also received 51% of suspensions for profanity and 57% of suspensions for insubordination.ii   Research by the American Psychological Association found that students who are suspended in school are more likely to dropout or graduate late,iii and the likelihood of incarceration increases by more than 50% for students that drop out of high school.iv  From the metal detectors that greet them at the door to the suspension policies that govern our discipline codes, the New York City public school system is, for far too many of our young people, a direct line to incarceration. The same system that daily treats students as criminals because of the color of their skin, has led to the death of innocent people like Eric Garner.

We must speak up about what happens inside our schools and in the communities of which we are part. As teachers that serve a student body that is majority students of color v, we must stand up and say that their lives matter.  Black lives matter.

For this reason, we will march on Saturday with thousands of others demanding an end to racist police policies that have taken the lives of too many, and wreaked havoc on the lives of too many others. The violence and criminalization at the hands of the NYPD must end today.


There are several ways to get involved this Saturday.  Please click links for more information on each event:

Justice For All March in Washington DC


Millions March in New York City (http://www.commondreams.org/newswire/2014/12/09/blacklivesmatter-group-young-black-organizers-calls-march-millions-13th-dec)

Teachers Unite Full Court Press Against School PushOut (http://www.teachersunite.net/content/join-full-court-press-against-schoolpushout)



i NYCLU. (2011). “Education interrupted: The growing use of suspensions in New York City’s public schools,” pg. 3.

ii NYCLU. (2011). “Education interrupted: The growing use of suspensions in New York City’s public schools,” pg. 19.

iii Skiba, R., et al (2006). Are zero tolerance policies effective in the schools? A report by the American Psychological Association Task Force, p. 63

iv By The Numbers:  Dropping Out of High School.  Dropout Nation.  Frontline. PBS

  1. According to NYC DOE Demographic Snapshot data for 2013, Black and Latino students combined make up nearly 70% of the NYC public school system.


8 thoughts on “Justice for Eric Garner!

  1. Protesting against the police department due to the actions of a few police officers is not the way the UFT should promote ways to reduce police brutality. Eric Garner’s death was a tragedy. However, painting the NYPD as a department that promotes racist practices against Black people is not fair. Sometimes a teacher whom has not been doing their job properly gets protection from the union (rightly so) and is exonerated from wrong doing because administration did not present their case properly. Then all teachers get painted with the brush that we can continue teaching even if we are guilty of teaching badly. In this case of bad teaching, the discussion needs to be directed at the proper way for administrators to present the case that a teacher needs to improve his or her practice. The discussion between police and the Black community needs to be how to build trust. The discussion has to focus on the practices police employ when encountering a difficult situation in the street with our Black students and their families.
    As a former teacher and guidance counselor in the New York City school system, I see this moment as a teachable moment. We have to discuss with our students how to react when police might be mistreating them or their families. We need to discuss using the civilian complaint board, the press, and finally the legal system to publicly bring out situations where Black students and their families have been mistreated. We need to discuss the importance of handling a situation with police in a manner that does not escalate into a violent scene where injury or possibly death can occur.

    Marching against the police is the wrong way to go.

    1. It is not the personal views or acts of individual police officers that is fundamentally at issue here. Officer Panteleo was carrying out the “broken windows” policing policy. He wasn’t indicted for Garner’s murder yet his career in the NYPD is over no matter how much PBA Pres Lynch bloviates. Why was Garner murdered? Why was Pantaleo not indicted but most assuredly will be dismissed from the NYPD? “Broken windows” is insulated and the chokehold is banned. You mention the Civilian Complaint Review Board and the Legal system as avenues for redress but they are what is broken. The press and elected representatives are not far from being equally “broken” as far as being whistleblowers and tribunes of the popular will. This is not a “Black” problem. It is not a “failure to communicate.” It is about justice denied, systemically, now and for hundreds of years and this should be the concern of all, particularly NYC teachers whose fundamental role is mentorship and advocacy for a student body that is 85% Latino, Black and Asian.

      1. Garner was not murdered, he died resisting arrest and as a result of his poor health conditions, which were exacerbated by his resisting arrest. He should not have died but he also would not have died if he didn’t resist arrest. If we teach our students not to resist arrest, that would be the greatest lesson learned here. The PD officers involved were found not to be criminally liable, which is not to say they did not make mistakes, but that they did not intend, or through negligence, create Garner’s death. People make this into something more than it is, similar to the Brown issue and his hands up, which has been repeatedly proven not to have occurred. This police officer, does not deserve to be fired nor would that be the proper response when the Grand Jury [of 14 whites and 9 non-whites] didn’t find any criminal responsibility. Justice was provided, just not “street” justice, as the police officer was exonerated for correctly doing his job, as much as some in society don’t want to see it that way. Again, if we teach our students to not resist arrest, that would be the best lesson learned from this.

      2. Sean,

        What concerns me is when students tell me they believe they have no choice but to be aggressive with police if and when confronted. That is a recipe for disaster. We do need to discuss and be part of a movement to fix an unjust legal system that is skewed against minorities in NYC. I believe a first step is for any individual or family whom has been mistreated to report the mistreatment to the civilian complaint review board and other legal entities. The individual or family should also contact other civilian advocates such as the NAACP, ministries, and the press. My view is the way to fix a broken system is to bring the complaints to the system and to the public eye. In the public eye, the system will have to answer. For example, if a complaint against the police is described to the press and the press does not report it, then stage a demonstration in front of the press buildings. If a complaint is brought to the civilian complaint review board and is ignored, then stage a demonstration in front of their offices. Make public all injustices and they will have to be acted upon. As an educator, I want to keep my students safe. Therefore, I will ask them to cooperate with police authority rather than get aggressive. I don’t want my students to be hurt. I want them to live. I also want to help them voice their concerns when they cooperated but were still treated unjustly.

  2. Rallies are easy. I’d like to see what people are doing in their schools, school communities and where they live. What about handing out informational leaflets at local precincts? Examples of information handed out to colleagues in schools and to parents? Informational sessions at the schools people teach at for students and colleagues – teach-ins? Like the piece MORE published the other day?

  3. If we don’t figure out how to move beyond rallies, online petitions, DA resolutions, preaching-to-the-choir and assuming that our cause is “righteous” and “self-evident” to people who won’t automatically accept that it is, we will perish. I mean here more than police-community relations or school-to-prison pipelines though surely that is what concerns our communities most today.

    We have learned a bit more about organizing chapters and communicating our message and for that we should be grateful.

    But things are about to change very rapidly and adversely for us and our allies here in NYS. We must awaken to our peril. We must stop and think anew and challenge the basic precepts that we’ve been working with. We must put everything “on the table,” consider new tactics, experiment with new approaches and evaluate with a clear-eye and laser focus what works and what doesn’t.

    Praxis, the conjoining of analysis with action, and dialogue, the open and honest conversation among ourselves that allows us to learn from experience without personal or group animus–there lie our only hope of success.

    1. When you are also ready, there likely is also a very long list of UFT members [there are a lot of members] who feel that the legal system worked and the PO’s in these matters [Brown & Garner] were investigated and found not criminally liable for their actions – that they did not intend or through negligence cause these deaths – and that society, through some of our political leaders, both locally and nationally, has decided that they were guilty even though proven innocent in these actions. We now have two dead PO’s because of that societal reaction. When you are ready of course…

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