It did not take long for Eric Garner to go limp and lose consciousness after a New York Police Department officer put him in a prolonged chokehold. As protestors line the streets of New York demanding that the U.S. Justice Department open a probe into possible civil rights violations, the nation’s focus has turned to the use of the chokehold as an appropriate law enforcement tool for those aggressively resisting arrest. The anatomy of the chokehold, known in Portuguese and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu as killing the lion, when used appropriately and experienced directly, makes for a very effective means of subduing an aggressive perpetrator. It is also a maneuver that, when used inappropriately, can have the practical effect of killing its victim. In the wake of Garner’s death, the question currently on the table is whether or not the maneuver should be criminalized.
Despite the fact that the chokehold is actually prohibited by the NYPD, though still legal, law enforcement officials are quick to defend its use. In this particular instance, they claim, Garner was aggressively resistant, and at over 300 pounds, posed a real and present danger to Officer Daniel Pantaleo and the cops who confronted him. As an habitual offender, cops grew weary of Garner’s ongoing presence on the streets of New York selling black market, or untaxed cigarettes known as Lucys. The politics and common sense of what is referred to as quality-of-life enforcement aside, protestors nationwide are demanding to know why a man selling cigarettes was essentially given a death sentence, then convicted and executed all in one fell swoop.
The chokehold, in taking advantage of a vulnerability in human anatomy, is a sometimes-killing maneuver taught in police academies throughout the United States and the world. It is a hold that is best known for its use in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and mixed martial arts. You can see it on dramatic display in weekly UFC competitions and on YouTube where clips of same are among some of the more popular clips involving combat sports. Generally competitors tap-out or resign the competition before going unconscious but occasionally even the toughest of competitors fall prey to the maneuver. The drama of it all is undeniable.
To effect the move, standing behind one’s opponent, one slides the hand underneath the jaw through to the opposite ear. Grabbing hold of the opposite bicep you take the free hand and press it behind the back of the opponent’s head. This effectively shuts off the blood flow to the brain and within seconds the opponent is rendered unconscious.
Law enforcement officials are not only defending the use of the chokehold but are laying much of the blame for Garner’s death on Garner’s own pre-existing health issues. These issues notwithstanding, the focus of the nation’s incredulous attention is now on the use of the chokehold itself. Protesters are posing the question loudly whether the chokehold is an appropriate tool for already overburdened and continually threatened police officers, or is it, in its application, as a terrifying example of the anatomy of killing itself.
By: Matthew R. Fellows
Photo By: Nathan Rupert Flickr License