What Would Have MLK Thought of the Case of Eric Garner and Mike Brown?


The year 2014 has been an eventful one when it has come to racial tensions. Over the summer two events occurred which have totally changed the racial landscape of America in the present. In July, an African American man, Eric Garner was outside a beauty salon, selling illegal cigarettes, trying to make a little extra money. The ensuing confrontation is video taped with Garner and the police. Garner can be seen as saying “leave me alone” and “it ends today” (referring to the constant badgering he would receive from the police.) What happens next we can see the policemen start to take him down, with what seems like unnecessary force. Towards the end of the video you can hear Garner, saying repeatedly in a muffled voice “I can’t breathe.” The following court case would yield a not guilty verdict on the part of the policeman who choked Garner out. (fast foward to 1:04 to see the actual video). 

A case which also had a huge ripple effect on the african american community occurred a month later with a young man named Michael Brown. Brown was seen on surveillance video, stealing from a connivence store right before his confrontation with policeman Darren Wilson. The account which Wilson provides is the confrontation had gotten physical, with Brown starting to attack him. Brown would go on to reach for Wilson’s weapon, where at this point he proceeded to shoot Brown a total of 6-7 times hitting him, with the last shot more than likely being the fatal one. brown-and-wilson

The ensuing court case would yield results much similar to the Garner case, with officer Wilson getting let off with a not guilty verdict.

With both instances, the person responsible for killing the victim were found to be not guilty. Though both were committing crimes, was this use of force necessary? Whatever the case, what happened angered many, many people causing ensuing protests. In Ferguson, Missouri, where the incident took place, there was peaceful protests right after the indictment. But these protest escalated very quickly into what would be riots, violence and looting. In New York the story was much different. Though the case with the police officer who choked out Garner got a similar indictment as Wilson, the protests which have been on going in New York City have been relatively peaceful. So we must ask ourselves- What would Martin Luther King think about these two cases?sc4630-1bwm

In MLK’s “A Letter From Birmingham Jail”, King address the “direct action” through the use of peaceful protests to change an injustice. I believe if MLK were still alive today he would look at both cases, and would totally disagree with whats going on in Ferguson. This is the exact opposite way to bring about change. They are perpetuating violence with more violence. This is probably the most ineffective way to change a problem. On the other hand though, I believe he stand behind the peaceful protests occurring in New York City. The situation which they are creating in New York through peaceful protests is indeed causing tension. The type of tension which MLK describes would bring about negotiation and change.

So do I stand behind whats going on in Ferguson and the reaction of the community? No. But on the other hand, a much more appropriate response is happening right now in New York. And through the reading “A Letter From the Birmingham County Jail” I would have to say that MLK would agree with me on this one.

2 thoughts on “What Would Have MLK Thought of the Case of Eric Garner and Mike Brown?

  1. I have to agree with you on both accounts. Those being that Ferguson’s display of violence is affecting change negatively, while also that MLK would endorse the New York protests. When I heard that the peaceful protests had turned violent, my first reaction was that “this is what they expect.” When I say “they”, I mean the police officers that feel it is necessary to use brutal, sometimes fatal, force because they fear for their own safety. The store owner, reportedly, didn’t want the cops involved after the robbery took place, but his store was a casualty of these violent protests, just because of “anger” and “outrage”. It is important that people find constructive ways to funnel those emotions if they want different outcomes.


  2. I agree with everything you said in your blog post. I also believe that MLK would be on your side as well. Using unnecessary force at any time is unacceptable. In both cases, the parties involved were not using any unnecessary force towards the officer, but the police use it back. Many would argue that the police fear for their own life, and their own safety, but they have to keep in mind that these people getting harmed are not putting their lives in any danger. It is upsetting that people use violence to reach a point, but it is an important factor of our lives today that we all have to look our for.


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