All That Remains frontman Philip Labonte says that the “tax laws,” not the police, were responsible for the death of Eric Garner, an unarmed black man who was stopped for selling loose cigarettes in New York City and placed in an apparent chokehold by a white police officer.
Labonte recently made headlines in the rock media when he suggested that the obstacles faced by the lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender (LGBT) community do not equal those experienced by the black community. Asked by Radio.com to clarify his comments, the singer said: “I think it was pretty clear. African-Americans have had a shit deal. You look at the prison system, I think black people [outnumber white people] six to one. You had slavery, you had Jim Crow, and now you’ve got— and this is something that [American politician] Rand Paul says — you have a racial outcome.“
He continued: “I don’t think that cops are walking around [saying], ‘Let’s go get us a black guy!’ I don’t think that that’s happening. But, at the same time, I think that… It all boils down to legislation. Because the places where the police tend to have to patrol more [are the] poor neighborhoods. I mean, Eric Garner shouldn’t be dead for selling loose cigarettes. And it wasn’t the cops that killed him, even though the cops were physically on top of him [when he died]. It was the tax laws. It was the government that killed him. Leave the guy alone. Let him fuckin’ sell cigarettes. The reason that he’s selling [unpackaged] cigarettes is because it’s ten dollars a frickin’ pack in New York. And poor people can’t afford ten dollars a pack! So the people that are hurt by laws aren’t the rich people, they’re poor people. So if you’re a poor person, and you’re getting a shit deal, stop voting for people that wanna pass laws. Vote for people that want to repeal laws. More freedom is gonna end up with less negative consequences. And you won’t have people like Eric Garner dying for no fuckin’ reason. He had six kids! I mean, he was resisting, in the thought process of he was not submitting to be taken away. But he wasn’t trying to hurt anyone. They’re, like, ‘Oh, he was arrested thirty times.’ You know what? Tell him to move along thirty-one [times], tell him to move along thirty-two [times], tell him to move along thirty-four times, tell him to move along a hundred more times. Don’t beat the crap out of the guy. Or kill the guy.“
Labonte also spoke about another high-profile case where a grand jury declined to indict a police officer for killing an unarmed man. On November 24, 2014, a St. Louis County grand jury decided there wasn’t probable cause to indict Ferguson, Missouri, police officer Darren Wilson for the shooting death of Michael Brown, an unarmed 18-year-old. The shooting almost immediately triggered protests in the St. Louis suburb, as demonstrators took to the streets to speak out against what many saw as yet another example of police brutality against young black men. The situation subsequently escalated and drew national attention when police fired tear gas and rubber bullets into a crowd of peaceful protesters after telling them to go home, declaring they were “no longer a peaceful protest.”
“As much as we’ve been bashing on the situation with Garner, the New York Police, and the people of New York did everything right [in the wake of the tragedy],” Labonte said. “The people in Ferguson did everything wrong. The police came out in full combat gear.”
He continued: “You look at the ’60s, there were bombings in the ’60s, there were riots, there was violence, you didn’t see cops in full kit, like they were going into Afghanistan or Iraq. They had their riot shields, they had their batons and they had helmets. Fine. And then as soon as the Highway Patrol took over in Ferguson, you didn’t see the guys out with their ARs [rifles]. You don’t need overwatch on the streets of Ferguson, Missouri. You don’t need an elevated sniping position. That’s so overblown. And, because the guy died, you’re gonna go and burn down a building? That’s retarded too.”
Labonte added: “As bad as the whole situation overall is, the over-militarization of police, the over-legislation, I think that those two issues are totally studies in the complete wrong thing to do, on both sides, and the complete right thing to do. New York did a great job. Ferguson? Not so much.”
All That Remains‘s new album, “The Order Of Things“, was released on February 24 via Razor & Tie.
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