On July 17th, 2014, Eric Garner died in New York while resisting arrest by New York policemen. A video of the incident was taken and has been viewed by millions of Americans. Policemen believed Mr. Garner was illegally selling individual cigarettes. Mr. Garner was black and the policemen on the video were white. This video, along with the incident in Ferguson, Missouri, has led many to believe police mistreat black Americans. Protests in cities have been widespread since these two events, and at least two policemen have been executed by one protester who claimed to seek vengeance for police brutality.
The politicians of New York, and the majority of voters who elected them into office, believe that smoking is wrong and should be discouraged. They also believe that smokers will smoke less if cigarettes cost more. Thus, New York taxes on a pack of cigarettes total $5.95. Those looking to make money illegally in the underground cigarette market buy cigarettes in another state, drive them into New York, and sell the packs or “Loosies” (individual cigarettes) without paying New York taxes. Local business owners had called the police to complain about Mr. Garner, who was allegedly selling Loosies.
The arrest of Mr. Garner was captured on video. A few policemen begin speaking with Eric Garner, and Mr. Garner is heard saying that he was not selling Loosies and was doing nothing wrong. As Mr. Garner continues to tell policemen to leave him alone, more policemen come and they tell him to put his hands behind his back. An officer tries to grab Mr. Garner’s arm, and Mr. Garner pushes the officer’s arm away, saying, “Don’t touch me!” Then, an officer comes from behind Mr. Garner and places his arm around Mr. Garner’s neck. The officer brings Mr. Garner to the ground, while multiple policemen physically force Mr. Garner to put his hands behind his back. During the arrest, Mr. Garner is heard stating, “I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe,” over and over.
Mr. Garner died within an hour of the arrest. After policemen subdued him, he became unconscious. An ambulance came and he was driven to a hospital. On the way, he suffered a cardiac arrest and died. Mr. Garner weighed 350 pounds and had heart disease, severe asthma, diabetes, obesity, and sleep apnea. It is clear that his health problems, coupled with the severity of the arrest, led to Mr. Garner’s death.
To determine if the policemen had acted illegally, a grand jury of 23 members reviewed evidence of the case. Of the 23 jurors, 9 were not white. On September 29, the grand jury decided the police did not act illegally. The grand jury decided that if an individual is believed to be breaking the law, policemen’s duty is to stop this activity, and if the person resists arrest, force is necessary. Police did not try to kill Mr. Garner, but as a result of the arrest and Mr. Garner’s health, he died.
Those who believe Mr. Garner was a victim of police brutality claim that he was a “gentle giant,” however, the facts present another scenario. Mr. Garner had a history of breaking the law, and had been charged with selling “Loosies” in the past. Aged 43, Mr. Garner had been arrested 30 times since 1980, on charges including assault and grand larceny. At the time of his arrest and death, Mr. Garner was on bail for illegally selling cigarettes, driving without a license, marijuana possession and false impersonation.
The video of the arrest is terrible, sad, and frightening. It is horrible to witness someone in his last moments of life physically resisting policemen. It is sad to see the challenge that regular-sized policemen have in detaining a huge man who is resisting arrest. And, it is frightening to see that our policemen are forced to enforce outrageous taxes on cigarettes and to know that our country’s laws have become so insane that it makes buying and selling tobacco dangerous.
1. Why have there been protests in cities across America related to Mr. Garner’s case?
2. Try to hold your breath and speak without exhaling or inhaling. Is it possible?
3. When Mr. Garner was saying, “I can’t breathe,” do you think policemen didn’t believe him?
4. What evidence do we have that the police in this case were acting out of racism?
5. What is the bias of the author of this article involving taxes on cigarettes? What words inform you of this bias?
On August 9, 2014, Michael Brown, an 18 year old, 6 ‘ 5”, 289 pound man was shot and killed by police officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson, Missouri. Nobody argues with these facts. However, many do disagree with evidence of the case and the meaning of the incident. Some view the killing of Michael Brown as a case of police brutality caused by racism, whereas others see it as a policeman protecting himself from a violent and dangerous criminal. Some people have reacted violently by destroying buildings, looting businesses, and attacking policemen, because they wanted to see Officer Wilson punished.
A great amount of investigation took place to uncover what happened the night of August 9th. Initially, the Ferguson police department investigated and found that Officer Darren Wilson acted correctly, shooting in self-defense. Following this investigation, there was a grand jury investigation. St. Louis County prosecutors presented evidence and the jurors (a group of people from society who agree to listen to evidence and decide) determined there was not enough evidence to charge Officer Wilson of a crime. Unlike other grand jury hearings, St. Louis County released all testimony and evidence regarding this case. There were at least three types of evidence related to what happened August 9th: eyewitness testimony, video recording, and forensic evidence.
According to Wilson, he had been called to investigate a crime of a small store being robbed. When he arrived, two men were walking in the middle of the street. After Officer Wilson told the men to go to the sidewalk, they shouted profanities at him. One of the men, Michael Brown, went towards the car, reached in and fought with Officer Wilson. Wilson reported that Brown punched him twice and then reached for the officer’s gun. Wilson then shot at Brown. Mr. Brown then ran back 30 yards and turned around. Wilson shouted for him to lie on the ground. Brown didn’t and charged. Wilson shot him. Brown continued to charge him. Then, Wilson shot more times until Brown was fatally hit.
There were at least 60 witnesses called to testify. All agree that Brown and Wilson fought in the police car, with Brown standing outside reaching in. Dorian Johnson, the man who had robbed the store with Brown, reported that Wilson shot Brown in the back, and that Brown had his hands raised saying, “Hands up, don’t shoot.” Some witnesses claimed Wilson had shot Brown in the back. Other eyewitnesses testified the exact same story Officer Wilson had told. And, some eyewitnesses changed their story during the grand jury, initially saying Brown had been shot in the back, to saying that what they said was actually a lie.
The second piece of evidence we have is a tape recording of the store that Brown robbed with his accomplice, Dorian Johnson. In the video, Brown menacingly stares down the store owner, who attempts to stop Brown before he walks out of the store.
The third piece of evidence we have is the forensic, or physical evidence. According to the autopsy, Brown’s right hand was shot within a distance of 6 to 9 inches of the barrel of a gun, which is consistent with Officer Wilson’s testimony of shooting Brown when there was a struggle in the police car. The other wounds to Brown are also consistent with Officer Wilson’s testimony. Brown suffered from non-fatal wounds on the front, right side of his body, and the final wound was a bullet going down on the top of his head. These wounds contradict some of the witnesses who claim Brown was shot in the back. 12 shell casings were recovered from the scene. Two were found next to the car, and ten were found next to the path that Wilson had claimed Brown took when charging him.
In the U.S.A., Americans have attempted to live in a society that follows the rule of law for over 200 years. This means that all people have to follow the law, and no matter how powerful one person may be, all individuals are equal under the law. Also, the ancient notion of innocent until proven guilty is one that is honored in American courts. Both of these concepts were crucial to enable the St. Louis County grand jury research, listen to, and ably judge the evidence.
Immediately after the shooting, protests exploded in cities across America. Some Americans chose not to wait and find out what the evidence was and convicted Wilson simply because of the color of his skin, which is white. Famous athletes and politicians joined in this activity, as did news media. Officers were attacked, and there are reports of increased violence in St. Louis against the white immigrants from Bosnia. Officer Darren Wilson resigned from his job as a police officer, because he felt that his presence on the Ferguson force would place himself and his fellow policemen in danger. Although he was found 100% innocent, he now lives a life where he will always be looking over his shoulder, wondering if somebody is out to seek vengeance for a crime he didn’t commit.
1. If Officer Wilson had been black, do you think people would have questioned his actions?
2. Was there any evidence presented that showed Officer Wilson was racist?
3. After the grand jury decided not to have a trial, some people in Ferguson destroyed buildings, and others in a major U.S. city attacked policemen. Were these perpetrators justified?
4. Before you read this article, what did you think about “police brutality?” Did your mind change?
5. Imagine you were a policeman. How would you want to be treated if someone accused you of racism?
In the past year, Ukraine has been in a war for its survival as an independent country. Russia has invaded and occupied southern Ukraine, has taken the Crimean Peninsula (a region of Ukraine), and has armed ethnic Russians who are fighting Ukrainians. Ukraine would like to remain free and cooperate with western countries but has received little help from the west. Under great strain and violent attack from a neighbor that is over twice its size in population, the future of Ukraine is in doubt. Ukraine’s recent problems are some of many in centuries of hardship and loss.
Located in Eastern Europe with Russia as its neighbor to the east, Ukraine has struggled to keep its existence over the last seven hundred years. From the 1600s to the end of World War I (1918) Poland, Russia, and Austria-Hungary controlled all of Ukraine. After World War I, Ukraine emerged as an independent country. However, from 1918-1922 Ukrainians fought a civil war that killed over 1.5 million people. In 1922, Ukraine became one of the founding countries of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (U.S.S.R., also called, The Soviet Union).
The Soviet Union was ruled by Communists and its power was centered in Moscow, Russia. Under the policies of the Soviet Communist Party, Ukrainians had no freedom of speech, no real right to vote, no freedom of religion, and, millions of Ukrainians were murdered. In the early 1930s, The Soviet Union took away all privately owned farms from Ukrainians. People who resisted were either killed or starved to death. Over 10,000,000 Ukrainians were killed. Nearly all Ukrainian army officers, writers, and religious leaders and intellectuals were killed by the Soviets. Later, Soviet leader Joseph Stalin led what has been called the “Great Terror,” killing hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians so they would be terrorized in following the Communist state.
During World War II (1939-1945), much of the fight against the Germans took place in Ukraine. Because of this, Ukraine suffered incredible losses. Between 5 million and 8 million Ukrainian civilians died in the war, and 1.4 million Ukrainian soldiers perished. Over 500,000 Ukrainian Jews were killed, both by the Nazis and by the Ukrainians.
Ukraine’s life as a modern, free country began in 1991, when the Soviet Union ceased to exist. Its 15 republics immediately declared independence, and Ukraine became a free country. In the 1990s, Ukraine suffered hard economic times. Ukrainians were free from the Soviet Communists but did not enjoy political freedom. In 2004, Ukrainians protested a rigged Presidential election, and in the “Orange Revolution” overthrew Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych, who stole the election. However, Yanukovych was reelected in 2006, and in 2010 he became President.
The current problems in Ukraine began in 2013. Ukraine, led by President Yanukovych, had been working closely with the European Union, and most Ukrainians wanted to join this economic group. The European Union is a common market where countries work closely with each other. Citizens have political liberties, like the right to free speech and free press, whereas in Russia the government represses individuals. The leader of Ukraine, Yanukovych, started to work with the Russians and stated that Ukraine will have closer ties with its neighbor to the east, and not with the west. Most Ukrainians were furious at Yanukovych’s actions and words and began to protest. During the protests, soldiers fired on the crowd, and nearly 100 Ukrainians died.
Ukraine’s Parliament removed President Yanukovych from power, called for new elections, and Petro Poroshenko was elected President. Yanukovych was wanted for ordering the military to fire on the protesters. He escaped to the arms of Vladimir Putin. Russia, under President Vladimir Putin, is a country where there is no freedom of speech, there are not free elections, and the Russian police violently control journalists. Ukrainians did not want to come under Russian control.
During this unrest, ethnic Russians in southern and eastern Russia claimed they wanted to join Russia, and Russian President Putin ordered Russian soldiers into these areas. Initially, unmarked and unarmed Russian soldiers took over the Crimean Peninsula, an important Ukrainian naval base. After a few days, the Russian men were armed. A quick vote was held in the Crimea, and the Crimean Parliament claims that a majority of the people voted to be part of Russia. Within a week or so, in eastern Ukraine, ethnic Russians began fighting a civil war with the Ukrainian army and people. During this war, the Russian military has supplied the Russian-Ukrainians and has also sent in the Russian military in an invasion. In one instance, the ethnic Russians shot down a civilian Malaysian airplane, killing over 200 passengers.
The western countries which comprise NATO has met the Russian aggression with mild resistance. Russia’s invasion of the Crimean Peninsula, and its open support of ethnic Russians, is the first time since World War II that a country has invaded and taken land in Europe. Ukraine has asked the United States of America and NATO for weapons, but they have refused to offer military aid. Some fear that the West’s passive response sends Russian Vladimir Putin the message that he can invade any country he feels he wants to.
NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) is comprised of the United States of America, Great Britain, France, Germany, and nearly all other Western European countries. If one country of NATO is attacked, all are supposed to come to its aid. Ukraine is not a part of NATO, but the western countries favor a free and independent Ukraine. In 2008, Ukraine signed a document agreeing to work toward NATO integration. In 2010, however, President Yanukovych dropped this plan. President Poroshenko and Ukrainian Parliament are now petitioning NATO for membership.
1. Who controlled Ukraine from 1922 to 1991?
2. Why did Ukrainians protest President Yanukovych in 2013?
3. How is Russia different from the United States today?
Question for Discussion
1. What do you think the United States and NATO should do, if anything?
2. Should the U.S. help Ukraine fight against Russia and its ethnic Russians?
3. Should the U.S. stay out of Ukraine’s problems?
4. Does Russian aggression in Ukraine signal danger for the rest of Europe?
On November 9th, 2014, 300,000 Germans and others gathered at the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin to celebrate the 25th anniversary of fall of the Berlin Wall, one of the most important historical events of the last century. The fall of the Berlin Wall signaled the beginning of the end of the Soviet Communist dominance of European and Asian nations and the victory of the free, democratic, and capitalistic countries that were led by the United States. In the U.S.A., however, we have no major celebrations. Why is this?
Germany after World War II
After World War II, the winners of the war divided Europe into two spheres. The United States, Great Britain, and France were in charge of establishing order and helping the western nations rebuild. The Communist Soviet Union was in charge of the East. The victors promised that all Europeans would enjoy free elections and determine their future on their own. However, the Soviet Union, led by Stalin, lied and militarily forced the people of Central and Eastern Europe to become communist and follow the will of the Soviet Union. Western Germany was free and Eastern Germany was under the Communists. Berlin, the capital city of Germany, was located in Eastern Germany. Berlin was also divided into a Soviet sphere and a free sphere.
What is Communism?
Communism is a political philosophy developed by 19th century German Karl Marx, but the ideas have existed for thousands of years. In a communist country, everyone is supposed to share everything. Nobody is allowed to own private property, and all people are supposed to have an equal amount of material things. In practice, communist countries are led by totalitarian regimes. Communist leaders treat their citizens like slaves, and make life miserable or kill those under their control. Communists control their citizens, don’t allow basic liberties, such as free speech, freedom of religion, and freedom to vote. In the 1900s, communist countries also tortured and murdered over 100,000,000 people.
Communism in Eastern Europe under the Soviet Union
A few years after the end of World War II, it was clear that the communist Soviet Union was not going to allow the Central and Eastern Europeans their freedom. Through propaganda, murder, and brutal oppression, the Soviets kept the Europeans under control. At varying times, individual countries tried to overthrow their rulers, but to no avail. In 1956 the Soviet militarily crushed the Hungarians, and in 1968, the communist countries crushed the Czechoslovakia push for freedom.
Berlin during Communist Control of Europe
While Western Europe modernized and became a beautiful place to live after World War II, Eastern Europe suffered greatly under the Communists. In the east, there was a lack of food and lack of clothing. Everything looked gray and even the buildings fell in disrepair. In Berlin, where there was a free Berlin and a communist Berlin, it was easy to see where the better life was. Even though the Communists didn’t allow anyone to leave, tens of thousands of East Germans escaped to West Germany through Berlin. The Communists decided to put a stop to this, and had a wall built around West Berlin. This was was not only concrete, but included guard dogs, guards in watch towers with machine guns, and a large no man’s land where people could be shot.
The Communists of Europe Lose
Many attempts were made by the Communists to control West Berlin and to defeat the free countries of the west, but they were never successful. The main reason for defeat of Communism in Europe was the United States of America. The U.S.A. helped rebuild the west through generous gifts of money, people, and leadership. It occupied West Germany with 300,000 soldiers to show the Soviets they could not invade. Americans undermined the Communists by broadcasting American music, news, and events by radio to the Communist countries. The more the Communists taught their people that America was the enemy, the more the people loved America.
In the 1980s, American President Ronald Reagan drastically changed the American approach to ending Communism in Europe. Before him, the American policy was containment. The idea was that if the Communists were left alone, they would eventually fall. Reagan, however, followed a more aggressive policy. He challenged the Communists through words by calling the Soviet Union the Evil Empire. He built up American forces which made the Soviet Union to try and outspend the U.S. in building weapons. Reagan also place intermediate range missiles in Europe to counter the Soviet threat. The Soviet Union could not keep up with this challenge and started to loosen its grip on Central and Eastern Europe. Eventually, the Berlin Wall was broken by East and West Berliners scaling the walls and tearing it down, piece by piece. The Communists of Europe lost, the Soviet Union disintegrated, and the free countries of the west, led by the United States, won.
Where is the Celebration of the Fall of the Berlin Wall in the U.S.A?
Unfortunately, there were no great celebrations in the U.S. of the fall of the Berlin Wall. How could this be? How could a complete American victory for freedom over a philosophy and regime not be celebrated by the very people who led it? In 2009, President Obama was invited but turned down the offer to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Berlin Wall. Why didn’t he go? One writer, Jennifer Dyer, notes in her blog, “Obama doesn’t go celebrate a victory for people’s freedom from government because he doesn’t believe in freedom from government.”
Read more at http://libertyunyielding.com/2014/11/09/one-guitar-25-years-fall-berlin-wall/#Tg1FAsB0Guj4efbh.99 She further explains that because President Obama has unfailing respect for governmental power, he does not like the idea that the west, led by the United States, defeated a regime whose aim was to control every segment of society.
1. What happened after World War II in Europe?
2. Who are the Communists?
3. How many people did Communists murder in the last 100 years?
4. What happened in Berlin, from 1961 to 1989?
5. According to one author, why has there not been huge celebrations for the fall of the Berlin Wall and the fall of Communism?
John De Gree
John De Gree writes the current events with a look at the history of each topic. Articles are written for the young person, aged 10-18, and Mr. De Gree carefully writes so that all readers can understand the event. The perspective the current events are written in is Judeo-Christian.
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