Why Should Anyone "Respect" the Law?

The "legal process" that Governor Cuomo is wheedling his citizens to respect is the one that last Monday declined to indict Wilson for shooting an unarmed 18-year-old as many as eight times, killing him. A legal system that yesterday failed to make Pantaleo answer for putting a man accused of selling cigarettes illegally into a banned and ultimately fatal chokehold, even when the man's last words were caught on videotape. A legal system in which prosecutors are given so much power that grand juries could be persuaded, as judge Sol Wachtler famously put it, to "indict a ham sandwich"—and yet where thousands of cops on duty kill suspects every decade and are almost never charged.

The "rule of law" that Cuomo wants us to hold in high esteem is the very same one that has given the NYPD a wide berth to harass, intimidate, and abuse young men of color, a "rule of law" governed by a rapidly militarizing police force training trigger-happy violent cops. A rule of law at the base of a system of violence and hate so out of control that even the mayor of New York City needs to warn his son of it. How can you ask people to respect the law when the law does not respect them? How can you remind them of the importance of the process when Missouri and New York are reminding us the process is hopelessly broken?



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