On Tuesday night delegates at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia heard from the mothers of seven African Americans whose deaths have fueled the Black Lives Matter movement. Their stories illustrate the movement’s legitimate grievances as well as the myths and bogus arguments that alienate potential allies.
Four of the seven deaths happened after encounters with police. But in the best-known case, the 2014 shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, the Justice Department found that the evidence supported the officer, Darren Wilson, who said Brown punched him and tried to grab his gun.
In the other three cases, police either clearly or arguably used excessive force. The clearest example of unnecessary force involved Sandra Bland, who was found dead, apparently by suicide, in a Texas jail last year, three days after Trooper Brian Encinia pulled her over for changing lanes without signaling.
Dashcam video of the traffic stop showed Encinia lost his temper and needlessly escalated the situation, leading to an arrest that should never have happened. Encinia was fired after a grand jury indicted him for lying in his report on the incident.
Eric Garner died of a heart attack in 2014 after he was tackled by New York City cops trying to arrest him for selling untaxed cigarettes. Video of the encounter showed that Garner, whose death was classified as a homicide, repeatedly complained that he could not breathe. A grand jury declined to indict Daniel Pantaleo, an officer who used what looked like a prohibited chokehold, in connection with Garner’s death