New York City police killings: 1964 (life) – 1989 (art) – 2014 (life)

In July 1964, just after the passage of the Civil Rights Act, White New York City police officer Thomas Gilligan killed Black 15-year-old James Powell. After two days of peaceful protest, police and protesters clashed and six nights of violence followed. This is not James Powell being killed, just another guy being beaten:


In the summer of 1989, Spike Lee’s movie Do the Right Thing featured the killing of Radio Raheem by White police — using the already-infamous chokehold — after they swept into the sweltering neighborhood, where a fight had broken out. The climactic incident sparked an explosive riot (watch the scene on Hulu with membership):


Now, another quarter century later, police on Staten Island have apparently choked 43-year-old Eric Garner to death after he refused to cooperate with whatever random demand they had, as captured on video (and posted by the Daily News):


Now the chokehold is against police department rules, but the number of chokehold complaints — a statistic the department keeps — has been rising and last year reached 233, only a “tiny fraction” of which are substantiated. In the Daily News video, Garner is heard saying, “I can’t breathe” many times.

UPDATE: Spike Lee has now produced a video splicing together the chokehold scenes of Eric Garner and Radio Raheem. It’s embedded on Indiwire here.

3 thoughts on “New York City police killings: 1964 (life) – 1989 (art) – 2014 (life)

  1. Words fail me to describe emotions of anger, dismay, heartbreak for this man killed, (and others), and his family. I have shared this thoughtful post. Thankyou.


  2. Michelle Shocked’s song “Graffiti Limbo” brings tears of anger and grief to my eyes every time I hear it. According to the police, Eric Garner was selling cigarettes. For that, he was choked to death.


  3. This article is an outcome of looking at the world through 1964 glasses where a racist policeman is waiting at every corner to shoot down innocents.

    The total number of people killed in the line of duty by NYPD is known and as follows:

    ” In 1971, police officers in New York City shot 314 people, killing 93. (In California, the state with the most police involved shootings in 2011, the police shot 183, killing 102.) In 2010, New York City police shot 24, killing 8. Last year, in 201, in the nation’s largest city, the police shot 16, killing 6. This is in contrast to the population that rose from 7.9 million to 8.4 million between 1971 and 2012. The rate of killing by police has reduced from 1.2 per 100,000 to 0.08 per 100,000. Notice that I do not even include choking, etc, for which death rates have averaged some 1 every few years”

    Here I list every homicide, justifiable or not.

    This is what frustrates me about this blog: the selective use of stats to make brownie points. Where the stats do not show what the author wants, he dos not show statistics but make the blog similar to Huffington Post or Salon. The 1989 death quoted here is from a bad movie.


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