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Breathing policy

"I can't breathe. I can't breathe. I can't breathe. I can't breathe. I can't breathe. I can't breathe. I can't breathe. I can't breathe. I can't breathe. I can't breathe. I can't breathe. ”


11 times Eric Garner said he couldn't breathe until he lost consciousness and died. According to forensics, the cause of death was suffocation. It happened as a result of police officer Daniel Pantaleo the 17. July 2014 on Staten Island took a stretcher on him before a gang of police officers laid him in the ground with handcuffs. The reason: He had committed a ban on selling loose cigarettes. "IT HAS TO STOP!" Cries a young woman with green hair. She stands in front of the entrance to the Morningside Campus one morning in April. I'm on my way to Avery Library, but I turn around and walk over to her. She is so insistent. She is from The Stop Mass Incarceration Network, and says that it must end is that blacks and Latinos are killed by white police officers, often without criminal prosecution. Before I leave, she supplies me with flyers and stickers, hits her chest and says, "Wear it with pride, ma'am!" On the way home that afternoon, my gaze attaches to the words "No more chair lives. Stop Police Murder ». It is written in childish block letters in chalk on the sidewalk at the intersection of Broadway and 125th Street, outside a tall municipal housing block. The contrast to the jumping paradise that I often pass in Ullevål Hageby on the way to work at home in Oslo – which is also written on asphalt with chalk – and the reality in Harlem feels brutal. Norwegian children and teenagers do not have to fear the bullets of the police. For African American children and adolescents it is different. From August to November 2014, fourteen teenagers were killed in the United States, according to the newspaper Daily Beast. It strikes me that the female activist's voice is not just insistent. It's also impatient, in a way I feel I've heard before. As in Martin Luther King's appeal to white moderates Letter from Birmingham Jail (1963): "It may be easy for those who have never known the piercing arrows of segregation to say: 'wait'. But when one has seen hateful policemen curse, kick, and even kill their black brothers and sisters; when you see the vast majority of twenty million black brothers suffocated in an airtight cage of poverty in the midst of an affluent society; when you feel your throat tighten and you stand and stutter because you have to explain to your six-year-old daughter that she can not go to the public amusement park that has just been advertised on TV, and you see tears rising in her eyes when she is explained that Funtown is closed to colored children, and when you see dangerous clouds of inferiority take shape in her mental sky; […] When you constantly have to fight against a corrupting feeling of not being anyone – then you understand why we find it difficult to wait… There comes a time when the cup of patience overflows, and where people are no longer willing to let go plunged into the abyss of despair… » Who gets live and who is going to die – whether it happens as a result of a police officer's physical strangulation, a service weapon falling off, or because it is simply not possible to survive in a society where racial discrimination is so widespread – we can call it the politics of breathing. King and his people finally got the right to vote. The right to education. "Strange fruits" no longer hang from the trees in the southern states, as Billie Holiday sings about in the signature song of the American anti-death penalty movement. Instead of the mob's self-justice, it is mass incarceration in American prisons that applies. Lynching is replaced by state-sanctioned killings in "orderly forms": a medical check before the poison injection is put in, or the opportunity to look survivors in the eye and ask them and their God for forgiveness, before the hood is pulled over the face and "Old Sparky" sends about 2000 volts through the body. According to The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), there are currently approximately 2,3 million inmates in US prisons. Of these, blacks and Latinos make up almost 70 percent. If current trends continue, one in three African-American men born today can expect to end up in prison for life. At a lecture in criminal law at Columbia Law School a few weeks ago, guest lecturer Stephen Bright from the Southern Center for Human Rights said that the courts pretend that race does not matter, even though the reality is that blacks are subjected to arbitrary arrests to a greater extent than whites. stricter penalties and to a lesser extent probation. Their procedural rights hang in the balance: there are examples of defense attorneys who appear intoxicated in court, or who do not even remember what the clients' names are. In three different cases from Texas, men have been sentenced to death, even though their defender sat and owl during the trial. Due to tricks and mixing with criminal procedure rules, the composition of the jury sometimes ends up consisting only of white people. Two weeks later the meeting with the activist lady with green hair, I stand with over 1500 protesters in Union Square. Similar demonstrations are being held in 30 other cities across the country. The magnolia blooms, and those present shout rhythmically: "Every city, every town, has its own Michael Brown!" A woman shouts in her megaphone: “We are not tired of going on trains or shouting. We're tired of burying our kids! ” Cornel West, who together with Carl Dix started The Stop Mass Incarceration Network, is welcomed by the crowd as a rock star. He points to the paradox that the United States has a black president, a black attorney general, a black secretary of state for the Department of Security, without it having resulted in federal prosecutions of police violence. I'm not the type who tends to be touched by crowds in a state of conformist political mass suggestion, on the contrary. Despite, or perhaps because, I have sat on the shoulders of my raddis parents in countless demos since I was a little girl and know what it's going on, I always keep some distance and never shout. But this feels different.

Lynching has been replaced by state-sanctioned killings in "orderly forms".

During the national memorial ceremony for the victims after 22/7 in Oslo Spektrum in 2011, the Swedish artist Melissa Horn reminded us that "when it comes to children, it is allowed to take sides". Here in the United States, it is not just children, but an entire ethnic group that is systematically kept down by raw police power and corrupt impunity. According to the civil rights organization American Civil Liberties Union, more than 100 people were killed by the police during March 2015. Without comparison, it is one and a half Utøya massacres. Before we march out into the streets of New York, I discover to my amazement that I am standing there, under the magnolia in Union Square, shouting, in chorus, “I can not breathe. I can not breathe. I can not breathe. I can not breathe. I can not breathe. I can not breathe. I can not breathe. I can not breathe. I can not breathe. I can not breathe. I can not breathe. "

Anne Bitsch is a social geographer and regular columnist in Ny Tid. Visiting researcher at Columbia University in the spring of 2015.

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