2. It's illegal to sell contraband on the streets of New York City, as Eric Garner was doing. But people do it all the time in New York, it's everywhere, just start at the intersection of Broadway and Harald Square and walk in any direction and you'll pass quick-moving vendors hawking stuff on every block. There are little knick-knack stores where the vendors keep secret drawers of bootlegged CD's and DVD's for interested buyers. So why in New York City was one man selling a handful of cigarettes such a crime that five police officers needed to be on the scene to stop him? Though when I presented this argument to Tom he replied, cryptically, "Staten Island is different."
3. If Staten Island is, in truth, different from all the other boroughs then perhaps it's good that I've never been there. Because I have a confession: I've bought lots of stuff from fly-by-day New York City street vendors and from the secret drawers of knick-knack shops. In the Woodside neighborhood of Queens I once bought a turtle from an old Asian lady standing under the elevated train who beckoned me over then lifted the cover from a little plastic container that held a tiny painted turtle.
I bought the turtle and the container for $5.
Which I guess technically makes me a petty criminal, too.
So if the police had caught me in the act and I'd balked at being arrested for something stupid like buying a turtle would they have felt it necessary to choke-hold me and pile upon me the way they did Eric Garner? An affluent-looking white lady like me? You think?
4. But then I was in Queens, not Staten Island. Maybe things really are different there than in Queens. All I know is that when I watched the Eric Garner video my immediate impression was of a pack of school yard bullies attacking the fat helpless kid. Because he was a big easy target. Which is the favorite prey of bullies.
5. Watching that video made me angry. But mostly it hurt my heart.