A t-shirt designed by a police officer to counter the “I Can’t Breathe” slogan adopted by Eric Garner supporters has been heavily criticised for missing the point entirely and conveying a threatening message.
The shirt, which bears the slogan “Breath Easy, don’t break the law,” along with a police badge, has been enthusiastically picked up by police officers and worn at protests to counter those speaking out against police brutality.
The backlash has prompted the designer, Police corporal Jason Barthel of Indiana, to go on the defensive and claim that the shirt isn’t a slur on Garner’s last words as he was choked to death by an NYPD officer.
“For those upset,” he writes “please understand when we use the slogan “Breathe Easy” we are referring to knowing the police are there for you! We are one people, one nation regardless of race, religion, creed or gender. We are all in this together. The police are here to protect and serve. 99.9% of us have the greater good in our hearts each time we strap on our uniforms and duty belts.”
Labelling the “I Can’t Breathe” t-shirts “confrontational,” Barthel claimed that his product was designed to be “uniting and positive.”
“We are all one people and this is by no means is a slam on Eric Garner or his family, God rest his soul. Lets all band together as AMERICANS regardless of our feelings and know we can and will be better! Thank you for your support.”
Whether you consider Barthel to be insincere, well meaninng, or simply out to make a quick buck, the slogan is undeniably inflammatory, and also puts across the idea that the safety of an American is ensured, UNLESS they cross a police officer. Presumably then, all bets are off and police are open to “kick some thug ass”.
Indeed, Barthel’s reassurance of not breaking the law won’t get you beaten or killed will not resonate with the relatives of countless innocent victims of police brutality over the past 20+ years, as well as the victims themselves – well, those who survived.
Abiding by the law didn’t work for both Kelly Thomas and James Boyd, who were summarily executed by police officers as they begged for their lives. Their only infraction was being homeless, which last time anyone checked wasn’t illegal.
Perhaps officer Barthel should ask 76 year old Pete Vasquez how abiding by the law worked for him when he was wrestled to the ground, pummeled and tasered for not committing a crime last week.
Perhaps officer Barthel should also ask Mr John Madison Reyes how abiding by the law worked out for him when his head was violently stomped into concrete simply for asking a cop to move his cruiser from blocking traffic last week.
Perhaps officer Barthel should also ask Michael Gardner how breathing easy worked out for him when he was cuffed and hauled off for recording a police officer on his own friend’s private property.
There are countless instances of police abusing their power every day. The three listed above are merely high profile cases that have occurred within the last 14 days.
The problem of brutality and abuse of force amongst police officers is undeniably linked to an increased militarization, as well as federal training which encourages cops to see citizens as the enemy in a warzone.
A recent Wall Street Journal study indicated that hundreds of police killings are not even included in the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s records on the matter. Many instances of police brutality simply go unrecorded and unreported.
Never mind, Breathe easy.
Steve Watson is a London based writer and editor for Alex Jones’ Infowars.com, and Prisonplanet.com. He has a Masters Degree in International Relations from the School of Politics at The University of Nottingham, and a Bachelor Of Arts Degree in Literature and Creative Writing from Nottingham Trent University.