The haunting final words of Eric Garner — "I can't breathe" — have already inspired a wave of protests against police violence with T-shirts worn by the likes of Lebron James and Laverne Cox. Now, a rebuttal shirt has appeared that supports the NYPD while also mocking a dying man's cry for help.
Approximately 100 demonstrators wearing sweatshirts reading "I can breathe, thanks to the NYPD" swarmed New York's City Hall last night. Chanting "Don't resist arrest," the group clashed with about 200 people protesting the recent grand jury decision not to indict officer Daniel Pantaleo for Garner's July 17 death.
While it's entirely within their rights to show support for the boys in blue, some demonstrators have been missing the mark with their tasteless choice of apparel. There's also more than one clothing option available to those looking to further sully the reputation of a dead man.
Corporal Jason Barthel of the City of Mishawaka Police in Indiana has his own custom-designed apparel, including caps, hoodies, and T-shirts with the tagline "Breathe Easy: Don’t break the law.” Barthel, however, posted on Facebook that he's not trying to "slam" the late Garner and his family. Perhaps he should tell that to his fans, who continue to post captions like "Comply, don't die" and rants about Garner's rap sheet.
It's not wrong to support the police. Wear an NYPD T-shirt if that's what you want to do. But these racist, offensive shirts just perpetuate the police-officer-as-bully image. Mocking the death of a man — regardless of his crime — is tasteless and sends a frightening message: If we don't do everything the police say, we're going to die? Good to know. Thanks for the threat.