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4 People Who Are Utterly Unsurprised by the Eric Garner Verdict

The most vocal commentators on race and justice in America were rendered almost silent this week.

4 People Who Are Utterly Unsurprised by the Eric Garner Verdict

A man choked another man to death, and the killer got away. This week, a grand jury convened and decided that Daniel Pantaleo, the New York Police Department officer who took Eric Garner’s life with his bare hands in broad daylight, did not commit a crime worthy of punishment. Eric Garner, 43 years old, unarmed, died on a Staten Island street with Pantaleo’s arm around his neck, surrounded by police officers and witnesses, some of whom recorded the incident.

On Thursday, Americans awoke to grapple with the reality of a justice system that fails to deliver justice, over and over again. But while many expressed shock and dismay over the Eric Garner verdict, some facing for the first time the profundity of insitutional racism, many in the black community and their allies recieved the news with weary sighs—all too familiar with the specter of police violence.


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1. Chris Rock

Chris Rock always has something to say, and in recent weeks, doing press for his new film, Top Five, Rock has been particularly talkative. On the subject of Eric Garner however, Rock could not find the words. Talking to Vulture, he said, "It’s horrible; it’s on videotape. How much more can you say? I don’t know what else you or I can do."

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2. Questlove

Last year, after George Zimmerman was acquitted for the killing of 17-year old Trayvon Martin, The Roots musician Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson wrote a frank and impassioned essay titled Trayvon Martin and I Ain’t Shit. “I'm not surprised at all, but that doesn't mean it stings any less,” Questlove wrote about the Zimmerman acquittal. “I should be angry, right? I remember when the Sean Bell verdict came out and I just knew, ‘Oh, God, New York is gonna go up in flames.’ And yet no one was fuming. It was like, ‘[Shrug] … No surprises here. That's life.’” Following the news of the Eric Garner verdict, the musician had a similar reaction. “I'm ashamed. Mostly because I'm no longer shocked at things now-a-days. Nothing is shocking. #EricGarner,” he tweeted.

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3. Roxane Gay

Roxane Gay is not only a best-selling author, she’s also a well-respected commentator. Her writing for Salon explored notions of feminism, pop culture, politics, and racism in the U.S. and she currently heads the new Toast venture, The Butter. Her astute observations and frank discussions have amassed her a hefty Twitter following. That’s the platform she chose to air her grievances with the Eric Garner verdict. Gay’s response was heavy with grief and fatigue. “Another day. Another dead. Another denial of justice. Another protest,” wrote Gay on Twitter.

4. Jon Stewart

There are few occasions during which Jon Stewart stutters inarticulately into the camera. But Stewart, as he reported on the grand jury decision, could only scream in frustration in reaction to the Eric Garner film. “I, uh, I don’t know. I honestly don’t know what to say.” Stewart’s segment delivered few laughs, but it did speak to the anger and confusion many are feeling in the wake of the grand jury announcement. There may be nothing more that can be expressed eloquently about insitutional violence, and few things that can be said about Eric Garner that haven’t been said already about Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Oscar Grant, Sean Bell, Ezell Ford, and numerous others whose names didn’t make national headlines.

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