As yet another American city explodes with protests over the killing of an unarmed Black man, we must open our eyes to the reality of the unintended consequences of police interactions with people of color.
Neighborhood FORWARD stands with the mother of Eric Garner, who has released a video condemning legislation that will lead to more negative interactions with law enforcement and communities of color. Gwen Carr’s son was killed by a police officer in Staten Island, New York after the cop claimed Garner was selling illegal cigarettes. Sadly, her son’s last words were the same as George Floyd’s: “I Can’t Breathe.”
In a video released Saturday, Carr sends a heartfelt and courageous message to legislators and all those supporting policies that could lead to more senseless violence and murder. One such policy is California Senate Bill 793 (SB 793). Currently being decided by the California Legislature, this bill would make it illegal to possess or smoke menthol cigarettes.
“A new law would criminalize menthol cigarettes which Black people smoke almost exclusively, giving police officers another excuse to harass and harm any Black man, woman or child they choose. Our leaders should know better,” said Carr. “A bad law has consequences for mothers like me.”
SB 793 inexplicably provides exemptions for wealthy cigar and pipe smokers and other ethnic communities who smoke tobacco flavored hookah pipes— but not for Black smokers, nearly nine out of ten of whom prefer menthol. The inclusion of menthol has led groups like Law Enforcement Action Partnership (LEAP) and the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement (NOBLE) to call the proposed law racist.
“Liberal white lawmakers are trying to push through a tobacco flavor ban that discriminates against black people. It’s shameful,” said Reverend Tulloss, president of the Baptist Ministers Conference of Los Angeles and co-founder of Neighborhood Forward. “Our collective primary interest is protecting the public, specifically communities of color, from abuse at the hands of both corporate influences and law enforcement. It is unjust to expect communities of color to choose between greater public health protections and basic civil rights.”
Contact Governor Newsom to Stop SB 793
Governor Gavin Newsom
1303 10th Street, Suite 1173
Sacramento, CA 95814
Phone: (916) 445-2841
Fax: (916) 558-3160