The Grand Jury decision not to indict an NYPD officer for choking Eric Garner to death is a shocking travesty of justice, but why were police harassing Garner in the first place?
The answer; He violated New York City’s ridiculous cigarette tax laws. Eric Garner was summarily executed for avoiding taxes.
Garner was tackled by several cops and put in an illegal chokehold by Officer Daniel Pantaleo during an incident in Staten Island earlier this summer. Video footage clearly shows that Garner was not resisting arrest and was not acting aggressively towards the officers. The 43-year-old father of six begged for his life, telling officers he couldn’t breathe, before dying moments later in what the medical examiner’s office ruled a homicide caused by the chokehold.
Garner was choked to death for the crime of selling untaxed cigarettes, so-called “loosies”. His fatal encounter with the NYPD would not even have occurred if not for New York’s punitively insane cigarette tax, which levies an additional state tax of $4.35 per pack in addition to a further city tax of $1.50 per pack, driving an underground economy which accounts for over half of all cigarettes consumed in New York State.
Cigarette smuggling has increased 59 per cent since 2006 in response to a 190 percent hike in cigarette tax during that same period.
“Garner chose to participate in the booming underground cigarette market as a smuggler. Since 2009, he had been arrested eight times for selling loosies, which are popular among people who can’t afford a full pack because of the excessive taxes,” writes Lawrence J. McQuillan, noting that NYPD chief Philip Banks issued an order to crack down on vendors of smuggled cigarettes just days before Garner died.
In November 2013, Mayor Michael Bloomberg signed a bill which increased “enforcement on vendors who attempt to evade taxes.”
“These events confirm that police are ultimately the enforcers of the tax code, and every vote for higher taxes gives police increased authority to exert more force on citizens in more situations. Higher excise taxes inevitably lead to more violent clashes between police and smugglers,” concludes McQuillan.
The responsibility for Garner’s death should not be shifted away from Officer Daniel Pantaleo, who clearly should have been put on trial for manslaughter, but the entire situation would not have arose in the first place if not for New York’s obsession with high taxes.