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Saturday, December 13, 2014

No Holds Barred: John Perretti on the Death of Eric Garner 

On this edition of No Holds Barred, host Eddie Goldman once again spoke with lifelong martial artist, former UFC and Battlecade Extreme Fighting matchmaker, TV commentator, and our senior correspondent, John Perretti.

Our subject was not the usual critique of what is going on in the combat sports, but the death of 43-year-old Eric Garner on July 17, 2014, in Staten Island, New York. Mr. Garner was allegedly selling loose cigarettes, and was approached by police officers. After being put by police officer Daniel Pantaleo in what many have described as a chokehold, Mr. Garner was pushed to the sidewalk and jumped on by other officers. Even after Mr. Garner repeatedly yelled "I can't breathe!" the group of police officers continued to push his head and body on the concrete. He then lost consciousness, and died soon after. A bystander shot a cell phone video of this incident, and it was widely posted online and shown on TV.

The official report of the New York medical examiner stated that compression of the neck and chest, along with his positioning on the ground while being restrained by police, caused his death, and that it was a "homicide." Also listed as contributing factors towards the death of Mr. Garner, who weighed in excess of 300 pounds, were bronchial asthma, heart disease, obesity, and hypertensive cardiovascular disease.

But on December 3, a Staten Island grand jury decided not to indict Pantaleo, who is white, or anyone else, in the death of Eric Garner, who was Black. This resulted in mass demonstrations around the U.S. and many other places protesting the killing of yet another unarmed Black man by white police officers. Many called this killing a "murder" and demanded justice, which they felt was not coming from the legal system.

In discussing this case, besides his expertise in martial arts and combat sports holds such as the many types of chokes, John Perretti offers something else as well. While many know about his credentials as a pioneer in MMA, grappling, and the martial arts and combat sports, it is not as well-known that, among the many facets of his life, he was an auxiliary police officer for ten years in New York's 13th Precinct. He thus brings a unique perspective to analyzing this situation.

We spoke with John Perretti by Skype Friday while he was in Japan (Thursday New York time).

"I feel that it was unjust, and not necessary," he said of the police tactics used against Mr Garner.

We discussed why the hold used against Mr. Garner was not the same as a martial arts chokehold, but more of a "clutch" which crushed the larynx. While different from the rear naked choke or choke sleeper seen in combat sports and martial arts, the move used by the police officer here did seem to fit the definition of the type of chokehold which is supposedly banned by the NYPD (New York Police Department).

We discussed the training of police officers, why he did not see the "physicality" which exists today among NYPD officers in the 1980s, why the hold used in this case was not a headlock, the growing problems and confrontations in the U.S. between police and the people, and much more.

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