Why Should Anyone "Respect" the Law?
Why Should Anyone "Respect" the Law?
By Max Read / gawker.com
Dec 5, 2014

In the wake of the announcement that Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson would not be indicted for shooting and killing Mike Brown, protestors across the country took to the streets in mass acts of civil disobedience, and in some cases, property damage.

And so, yesterday, following a New York grand jury's failure to indict New York City police officer Daniel Pantaleo for choking 43-year-old Eric Garner to death in July, Governor Andrew Cuomo issued a statement. "[W]hile there will be people who disagree with today's grand jury decision," it read, "it is important that we respect the legal process and rule of law."

He did not explain why.

As we've watched two killer cops, half a country apart, skip even the process by which they might be held to account for the deaths of Mike Brown and Eric Garner, politicians and editorial boards have taken care to make similar pleas. You must respect the process. You must respect the system. You must not break the law in response to the law's failure.

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 decadeand are almost never charged.

The "rule of law" that Cuomo wants us to hold in high esteem is the very same one that hasgiven 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?

There is a troubling trend in American thought that holds we should "respect" cops as we might "respect" venomous snakes: by staying away from them, by avoiding eye contact, by not making threatening gestures. "It is important that we respect the legal process and rule of law" because otherwise we will be beaten and sodomized with nightsticks and shot to death on our doorsteps. "It is important that we respect the legal process and rule of law" because the state has a monopoly on violence that it has repeatedly demonstrated a willingness to use, especially against poor minorities.

That's not respect. That's terror and fear.

Respect is a reciprocal relationship. It is not the awed veneration of cops that prosecutors and grand juries apparently feel. It is built on trust and understanding and it must be continuously maintained. It is not, as Cuomo would apparently have it, a shield to be wielded by the state against the righteous anger of its citizens. As parents and needlepoint stitchings are fond of saying, it is earned, not given. That the governor of New York should feel the need to remind his citizens of the respect due the law should be as clear a sign as any that the law has failed to earn it.

Huffington Post's Ryan Reilly pulled some anonymous comments yesterday from PoliceOne, a message board limited to "verified law enforcement professionals":

Why Should Anyone "Respect" the Law?

If these are the men sworn to uphold "rule of law," it's no wonder Cuomo is reduced to begging his citizens to "respect" it. Respect cannot exist between one community and another it regards as subhuman. You cannot respect a demon.

And you cannot ask a people brutalized and oppressed, told their lives are worthless and their deaths are their own fault, to respect the institutions and people that uphold those systems of terror and violence. "I taught my son to respect the law, to respect the police, but the law killed him. It is the law that is killing our sons off, taking our sons away," Anya Slaughter, whose son Kendrec McDade was killed, unarmed, by a Pasadena cop in 2012, told the Los Angeles Daily News last week. "Where do you go from there? I don't know what to teach my kids anymore."

4.0 ·
1
Trending Today
Globalization Makes No Sense
Chris Agnos · 14,149 views today · When I lived in San Francisco, I often would marvel at the movement of goods through the ports across the bay in Oakland. Full container ships would enter the bay one after...
How Norway Avoided Becoming a Fascist State
George Lakey · 12,496 views today · Instead of falling to the Nazi party, Norway broke through to a social democracy. Their history shows us polarization is nothing to despair over.
Stunning Small Homes Form Part of a Communal Compound for Best Friends
Lighter Side · 10,095 views today · If you’re lucky enough to have longtime friends even as an adult, then you know probably already know how much it means to be able to spend time together. Maybe you even have a...
Where the Term "Redneck" Came From
15 min · 6,731 views today · If you don't know this story, you'll never look at the word the same again.  This is just a window into the sometimes shocking, subversive and untold history of the United...
The Fire Within
Words by Sophie Scholl - Illustrations by Gavin Aung Than · 6,033 views today · Sophie Scholl (1921-1943) was a German activist who is famous for speaking out against the Nazi regime. Scholl was a member of a protest group called The White Rose, which...
The Most Astounding Fact about the Universe
3 min · 5,323 views today · This is Neil Degrasse Tyson's response when asked to describe the most astounding fact about the universe. Background music is the cinematic orchestra - To build a home.
The London Anarchist Group Squatting Mansions to Fight Homelessness
6 min · 5,285 views today · London squatting activists ANAL (Autonomous Nation of Anarchist Libertarians) are squatting empty multi-million pound buildings and opening them up to the homeless.
Proof of Evolution That You Can Find on Your Body
4 min · 5,158 views today · Vestigial structures are evolution's leftovers — body parts that, through inheritance, have outlived the context in which they arose. Some of the most delightful reminders of...
Without Saying a Word This 6 Minute Clip From Samsara Will Make You Speechless
6 min · 4,358 views today · Can you put this video into words? It's a clip from the phenomenal documentary Samsara, directed by Ron Fricke, who also made Baraka.  If you're interested in watching...
The Foiled Bomb Plot in Kansas That Didn't Make Trump's Terror List
5 min · 3,312 views today · When a plot by a pro-white militia to bomb a Somali mosque in Kansas was foiled by the FBI last October, the aborted conspiracy received little national coverage - nor did it...
Voices of Standing Rock
49 min · 3,236 views today · Short stories told by water protectors at Standing Rock, North Dakota. Part 1 - Introduction: Since mid-August 2016, thousands have set up camp near the Standing Rock Sioux...
Your Lifestyle Has Already Been Designed (The Real Reason For The Forty-Hour Workweek)
David Cain · 2,903 views today · Well I’m in the working world again. I’ve found myself a well-paying gig in the engineering industry, and life finally feels like it’s returning to normal after my nine months...
Redneck Revolt Presents: A Message to the Patriot Movement
6 min · 2,748 views today · Over the past few weeks, Redneck Revolt has been communicating with a former member of a III% Patriot Militia based out of Ohio. Peter made contact with our organization after...
To Change Everything, Start Everywhere
8 min · 1,837 views today · To Change Everything, Start Everywhere! The case for complete self-determination—a guide for the furious, the curious, and the pure of heart. To Change Everything: An...
10 Words Every Girl Should Learn
Soraya Chemaly · 1,834 views today · "Stop interrupting me."  "I just said that." "No explanation needed." In fifth grade, I won the school courtesy prize. In other words, I won an award for being polite. My...
The Lessons of Standing Rock
Michael Emero · 1,692 views today · In mid-November of 2016, I was a Water Protector at Standing Rock. At first my goal was to play investigative journalist; documenting then writing about every detail for my...
From Sanctuary City to Liberated City
Frank Lara · 1,386 views today · In just one week, with several strokes of a pen, Trump unleashed upon the working class in the U.S. an attack not seen in decades. From his attack on the flawed Affordable Care...
Transition From Caterpillar to Butterfly as Analogy for Social Change
4 min · 1,224 views today · An exceprt from Crossroads: Labor Pains of a New Worldview in which Dr. Bruce Lipton talks about the fractal nature of reality and compares the current global awakening and the...
How a Lack of Touch Is Destroying Men
Mark Green · 1,193 views today · Why Men Need More Platonic Touch in their Lives
Charles Eisenstein: The Two Great Stories That Give Meaning to Our Lives
6 min · 1,041 views today · What matters in life? Who are we? Every culture has answers to these questions. And the way we answer them has profound effects on the health of people and planet. This is a...
Load More
What's Next
Like us on Facebook?
Why Should Anyone "Respect" the Law?