Written by Kira

Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral, begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy.” Racism, suppression of culture, as well as police violence are persistent issues around the world. In many cases, when people choose to stand up for what they believe in and protest, it causes greater violence and more suppression. There seems to be a never ending cycle of unjust action that occurs in these situations.

Eric Garner was a 43 year old African American man. He died July 17, 2014 due to an asthma attack after he was placed into an illegal chokehold by a New York police officer. Garner had been arrested multiple times in the past for illegal drug possession and illegal distribution of cigarettes. That day he was approached by an officer for suspicion of selling cigarettes from packs lacking a proper tax stamp. Garner expressed his frustration about repeatedly being approached by officers and stated that he had done nothing illegal, asking the officer to, “please just leave [him] alone.” When the officer attempted to subdue him, Garner swatted his hand away, repeating his plea. Another officer then put Garner in the illegal hold and brought him to the ground, Garner then stated that he was unable to breathe several times. When the officer finally broke the hold, Garner had already passed out. This officer has a past record of racially motivated offenses. Garner later died due to the prior health issues, but it was shown that the chokehold had been a contributing factor. When the decision was made to not indict the officer responsible for the chokehold that inevitably caused Garner’s death, it sparked many protests and riots. Within these protests there has been many incidents of violence by both the people and the police. These protesters show a symbol of defeat, by putting their hands up, which is used to represent that they’ve given up and that they are of no threat, to represent their cause.

Iran serves as an example of this suppression and violence as well. Iran chose to become an Islamic republic after the shah had been overthrown. The outcome, though, wasn’t what many had planned. It became mandatory for women to wear the veil and for men to grow long beards. Many things people usually associated with parties were banned, along with much of Western culture. The Guardians of the Revolution was a group of people who enforced these rules and regulations. Those who disobeyed were often arrested, or worse. Protesting was prohibited and in many cases, very dangerous. To protest was to risk your life. The veil became a symbol of suppression because many who wouldn’t choose to wear it were practically forced to, much like the religion and culture.

Although these may be very different situations, they connect in many ways. In the US, racism has always been a large issue. The Eric Garner case has sparked protests and conversations about racism in our system of law. Many say that if he had been white, he may still be alive. In Iran, the case is similar. If everyone was strictly Islamic, they would have no issue. This is not the case, though. Everyone has a right to be who they are and express their beliefs. It is not anybody’s fault that they happen to be African American, much like people cannot be blamed for what they believe. In both cases, an injustice sparked an uproar and caused protest, resulting in even more violence and oppression.

Garner-demonstrators-times-square Above is a photo taken of a young African American man, surrounded by others protesting with their arms up after the decision was made not to indict the NYPD officer responsible for Garner’s death.

To surrender is defined by the Webster Dictionary as, “to give up completely or agree to forgo especially in favor of another.” One way to show that you’ve surrendered is to hold your hands, empty, above your head. This shows you are of no threat and have no intention of retaliation. In the US, protesters use this symbol to represent that this is the only way African Americans can be safe in the presence of the police. Another way to surrender is to give in, to do as told. Although many Iranians would rather not wear the veil, or grow a long beard, they must in order to be safe in their society. So, they do, they give in to what they are told because it is dangerous for them not to. In both cases, they must give up and surrender in order to be treated equally, which isn’t true equality at all.