“A death at the hands of the police is like a stone thrown into water: rings ripple outward over a vast space, touching all who survive. The death doesn’t end when the court cases are settled or when the press moves on.” The sharp truth in these words of journalist Chloé Cooper Jones of The Verge embodies the agony and courage of families and community activists resisting police brutality. A poignant example is Ramsey Orta, whose video exposed Eric Garner’s 2014 killing and galvanized a national movement against police crime and cover-ups.
Five years after Garner’s chokehold murder, federal officials announced they would not file civil rights charges against officer Daniel Pantaleo. After a NYPD disciplinary hearing in May and June 2019, the judge, a deputy police commissioner, recommended Pantaleo’s termination. Finally, on August 19, New York’s police commissioner fired Pantaleo, taking smarmy pains not to offend New York City cops who nevertheless condemned his decision as “anti-police.” Those who stood by while Pantaleo choked Eric Garner to death, and who tried to cover for the killer in court, still oversee NYC streets.
Pantaleo walks free. But Ramsey Orta, who videotaped the crime, is still behind bars. He was arrested multiple times after Garner’s death, framed for gun and drug possession, and eventually pleaded guilty in a deal to free his mother and brother who were also arrested. Jailed in 2016, Orta has been abused, repeatedly thrown into solitary and moved through 11 NY prisons. (See “Cops and legal system persecute videographer of Eric Garner’s murder”). He was denied parole in early August and is expected to be incarcerated until June, 2020.
To support Orta, donate for commissary and visitation costs through his PayPal, using firstname.lastname@example.org, and write to him: Ramsey Orta, 16A4200, Collins Correctional Facility, Middle Rd., PO Box 340, Collins, NY 14034-0340.
Orta is not the only witness who has videoed police crime, reported it, and then been subjected to false arrests and harassment. One tactic for protecting people from retaliation is to expose it through a proxy. The anti-violence group Stop The Killing and the ACLU help witnesses make their videos public anonymously. Delaying release until after the official reports can counteract their lies and inconsistencies. Savvy witnesses also live stream police violence via Periscope, Instagram, Facebook, and Snapchat.
Another critical fight to empower communities to combat police abuse is being organized by the NYC Campaign for an Elected Civilian Review Board and a Special Prosecutor (ECRB). This grassroots coalition, led by the Freedom Socialist Party, Black Lives Matter, Democratic Socialists of America, and family members of several police victims, advocates binding, decision-making power over the NYPD. For more information, visit stoppoliceviolencenyc.org.
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