Via the Corner, an amazing statement given that her husband’s become the face of the “black lives matter” police protests and that she has one of America’s foremost racial demagogues sitting right there at her left elbow during the segment. (As you’ll see, Sharpton’s quick to challenge her — politely.) In fact, her read on what happened to Eric Garner isn’t all that different from the read offered by many conservatives this past week, that ultimately his death was a lesson in what being hassled by the state over minor matters can lead to. The cops knew him well, she says, from his habit of selling “loosies” and even taunted him by calling him the “cigarette man” when they saw him around. Their familiarity with him made her uneasy; she says she warned him to stay off the block for fear of more encounters, but he thought selling cigarettes out of the pack was his best bet to make a buck given his physical limitations. Ultimately, she seems to suggest, he was a victim of petty harassment that accumulated to the point where he ended up on the ground with a cop’s arm around his neck. Garner’s last words before the cops grabbed him were along the same lines: “Every time you see me, you want to mess with me. I’m tired of it. It stops today.” He finally resisted, nonviolently, over a nickel-and-dime sin tax — and as Jesse Walker notes, that’s become the litmus test for the two sides in this case. “There are people who think Eric Garner’s resistance means that he’s to blame for how he died,” wrote Walker. “And then there are those of us who think that just might be the most horrifying possible lesson anyone could draw from this terrible story.”
She’s speaking from the heart, I’m sure, but I think her attempt to frame this as beyond black and white is smart politically, too. One of the most striking things about the reaction to the non-indictment in Staten Island is how differently whites view it than the non-indictment in Ferguson. Per one poll, 64 percent of whites support the latter decision but just a third support the former. By declining to racialize it, she’s leaving political space for both races to share the outrage in what happened to her husband.