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I Can't Breathe: A Killing on Bay Street

4.37  ·  Rating details ·  1,604 ratings  ·  282 reviews
A work of riveting literary journalism that explores the roots and repercussions of the infamous killing of Eric Garner by the New York City police—from the bestselling author of The Divide.

On July 17, 2014, a forty-three-year-old black man named Eric Garner died on a Staten Island sidewalk after a police officer put him in what has been described as an illegal chokehold
Hardcover, 304 pages
Published October 24th 2017 by Spiegel & Grau
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Jan 06, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A well constructed and compelling argument in defense of Eric Garner and other victims killed by police officers. I’m aware of misconduct and abusive behavior by the author in other publications, but there is none of that here. You get Eric’s story and a glimpse at some of the political decisions that lead to these fatal encounters. Eric’s daughter, Erica died at the age of 27 at the end of December last year. I hope this book helps her quest for justice.

A part of the problems is lies, damned li
Oct 29, 2017 rated it really liked it
I am going to review this book at some point. But, the world we live in right now is just crazy!! Information regarding the author of this book, which came to light just as I turned the last pages of this book have stunned me. While, I realize this is a story that needs telling, that Eric's daughter, Erica, needs the whole story told, and is counting on this book, and it is an important book, I'm going to come back to it after things with this author are clearer, and I can approach it without th ...more
Aug 12, 2017 rated it really liked it
ERIC GARNER died on the streets of Staten Island on July 17, 2014 at the hands of a New York City Police Officer. He was 43 years old, weighed 350 pounds at the time and was in poor health. He was also a known drug dealer. As a big, imposing man, he was intimidating, but for the most part well-liked and harmless. He loved his family, wanted to provide for them, but made poor choices repeatedly spending a considerable amount of time in and out of prison.

Despite his criminal lifestyle, despite res

Theresa Alan
Sep 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I found this nonfiction book hard to put down. It’s about Eric Garner and his death at the hands of overzealous police, but it’s also about all the lawyers and judges and policies in place to protect police officers and encourage the harassment of black and brown people.

Garner comes off as a sympathetic though flawed individual. The police officers and other members of law enforcement do not come off looking good at all. This is not about good cops; it’s about the bad ones who go unpunished.

Apr 05, 2020 rated it it was amazing
"......America had essentially decided to start moving back in time, formally pushing back
against the civil rights era. Garner's death and the great distances that were traveled to
protect his killer, now stand as testaments to America's pathological desire to avoid equal
treatment under the law for its black population."
-Matt Taibbi... 'I Can't Breathe: A Killing on Bay Street'

In Matt Taibbi's book, 'The Divide: American Injustice in the Age of the Wealth Gap', he delved into the subject of
The detailed nature of this book about the life and death of Eric Garner allows us to see, in horrible living color, exactly where we’re at in terms of race relations in the United States. Eric Garner died July 17, 2014 in Staten Island, victimized on this day by police who put him in a chokehold and ignored his pleas that he could not breathe. What Taibbi does exceptionally well in this difficult book is allow us to see Eric Garner for the man he was—a well-liked and respected member of his com ...more
Dec 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing
“Never be content to sit back and watch as others rights are trampled upon. Your rights could be next.” -DaShanne Stokes

Matt Taibbi, a notable journalist for Rolling Stone Magazine and NYT bestselling author, specializes in reportage of economic, political and social injustice. “ I Can’t Breathe: A Killing On Bay Street” recounts the life and death of Eric Garner (1970-2014) who died on Staten Island, NYC after he was placed in a police choke-hold, and left unconscious on the public sidewalk wit
Nov 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Eric Garner comes alive one more time in Matt Taibbi’s searingly honest account of an unjust system. I kept hoping for a different outcome. I really did. I’m left to wonder how some of the people in this book sleep at night.
Nov 26, 2017 rated it really liked it
Whenever the issue of police brutality arises, the question of appropriate and proportionate use of force always crops up. One side will argue that it was unjustified, excessive; and even worse, racially motivated. The other side will argue that it was totally justified, necessary; and what more, a necessary precaution self-inflicted by the 'culture' of violence perpetuated by the racial demographic involved. If you, like me, are unsure of which argument contains more truth (there are, after all ...more
3.5. This book succeeds in giving the reader a fuller picture of Eric Garner - his personality, his life, his family, and his troubles. This book is also successful at showing the reader why Eric Garner died that day: the intersection of broken windows policing, stop-and-frisk, the statistics/numbers-focused NYPD, lack of job opportunity, gentrification, etc. The writing is approachable and conversational. During some parts on audio I dozed off (my favorite parts were learning about Eric and his ...more
Aug 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: netgalley
"A masterly narrative of urban America and a scathing indictment of the perverse incentives built into our penal system, I Can’t Breathe drills down into the particulars of one case to confront us with the human cost of our broken approach to dispensing criminal justice." from the publisher's website
Taibbi's book I Can't Breathe explains the evolution of discrimination justified by being 'tough on crime' and how it lead to the death of Eric Garner, which fueled the Black Lives Matter movement.
Rebecca McNutt
This was incredibly sad. I live under a rock, so I had no idea who Eric Garner was until now, but his story and tragic death is a cry out to us all to stop injustice when we see it, and a wake-up call to police brutality.
Tiffany Reads
Aug 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing
"The lengths we went to as a society to crush someone of such modest ambitions - Garner's big dream was to someday sit down at work - were awesome to contemplate. What happened to Garner spoke to the increasing desperation of white America to avoid having to even see, much less speak or live alongside, people like him. Half a century after the civil rights movement, white America does not want to know this man. They don't want him walking in their neighborhoods. They want him moved off the corne ...more
Dec 16, 2017 rated it really liked it
I am generally a fan of Taibbi's writing and thinking and this book was good. It's not quite as good as the divide because it doesn't cover anything particularly new (for anyone who has been following these cases), but it is such an important perspective. I especially loved how he dug into the history of broken windows and the politics of New York and crime. This is the world from which Trump's bigotry spring. The last few chapters of the book show Taibbi at his best: connecting the dots of inju ...more
Matt Taibbi has always struck me as someone I would probably not be able to stand in person. He always came across arrogant and self-absorbed, a real “dudebro” type. His writing has always been hit or miss for me, usually a miss when he injects too much of himself into the story he’s writing. I requested an advanced copy of this book because of the subject matter without paying attention to who wrote it at the time. The Eric Garner killing and the subsequent “investigation” (I use the word loose ...more
It's hard to rate a book that leaves you feeling devastated…
Any rounding down is because I've read other Matt Taibbi books I thought were better constructed.
Jennifer Turner (JensPageTurners)
I Can't Breathe proved to be a very difficult read. Garner's death is certainly not the only important one, but it did help create talk and start a movement. It's deeply disturbing to hear how some of these situations went down and the aftermath. Selling loose cigarettes/packs for a cheaper amount (while considered 'illegal') doesn't seem to warrant the outrageous bail amounts or jail time and eventual death by chokehold. I feel a lot of despair for our country and our legal system after reading ...more
Donna Davis
Dec 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: those that care about Civil Rights in the USA
“Try to imagine a world where there isn’t a vast unspoken consensus that black men are inherently scary, and most of these police assaults would play in the media like spontaneous attacks of madness. Instead, they’re sold as battle scenes from an occupation story, where a quick trigger finger while patrolling the planet of a violent alien race is easy to understand.”

I received an advance review copy of I Can’t Breathe: A Killing On Bay Street, courtesy of Random House and Net Galley. I had expec
Darcia Helle
Every now and then a book hits me so hard that it takes me a while before I can review it. I need time to find the words. It's been a couple of weeks, and I'm still searching for those words.

To start, I can say simply that this is one of the best narrative nonfiction books I've ever read. Matt Taibbi's writing style has such an ease to it, as if the writing took no effort, when I know the exact opposite is true. Great writing like this takes a whole lot of effort.

This book reads like the best t
Aug 03, 2017 rated it really liked it
Although I've read quite a few books dealing with unjustified killings of mostly black men, I'm still shocked at how the systemic racism inherent in the criminal justice system conspires to twice victimize those who are unfortunate enough to get caught up in the system. First by death, and then by the denial of justice.Matt Taibbi takes a look here at the killing of Eric Garner who was basically choked to death and despite the whole world seeing a man saying " I can't breathe" eleven times no on ...more
Karen Ashmore
Dec 17, 2017 rated it really liked it
A thorough book about Eric Garner, his family and friends,and untimely murder. Includes interview with his daughter Erica, the guy (Ramsey Orta) who filmed the infamous video, DA, judges, cops and politicians. But the most despicable case was Officer Daniel Pantaleo who murdered Garner and got off scot free. Even worse, he has one of the most violent records as an NYPD Staten Island officer and still continues to be an abusive cop today. The corrupt criminal justice system must be brought to its ...more
Philip Cohen
Jan 17, 2018 rated it really liked it
I Can’t Breathe is very good, for linking big things like Broken Windows, stop-and-frisk, and police oversight to intimate details of life and death. Also how Eric Garner’s case is typical of so many we don’t hear about. Recommend.‬
May 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, controversy
This book starts with a bang and never lets go... gripping from the first page to the last.

While the book focuses on Eric Garner and the aftermath of his death at the hands of police, the first story is actually about a different person who figures prominently throughout the book.

What I love about this book is how it paints such a vivid picture of Garner as a person, with all his virtues and flaws... and how it proves that police abuse of blacks is systemic, especially in certain areas like Stat
Kitabi Keeda
Sep 14, 2018 rated it really liked it
There is no hunting like the hunting of man, and those who have hunted armed men long enough and liked it, never care for anything else thereafter.
- Ernest Hemingway

Before I start with the review, let me tell you who Eric Garner was. Eric Garner was a 40 something African-American who was constantly penalized for having a skin tone that has, for centuries, been at the receiving end of brutal violence, slavery, and discrimination. Garner was a resident of Staten Island, New York and every day he
Jan 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The first time I'd ever heard the name Eric Garner was this past winter while I was listening to the podcast "Fresh Air". I think I only got past the introduction of Mr. Taibbi and how his story regarding a brutal killing of the man in Statin Island evolved into his book. I was instantly hooked, I quickly hit the stop button and saved the podcast, so I could listen to it after I had read this book. At the time that this crime had taken place, I had already shut down the media because there was s ...more
Rick Sanchez
This was SO SAD! I cannot even begin to believe something so sick happened to a human being. A good addition to my NY collection.
Raymond Rusinak
Nov 15, 2017 rated it really liked it
Quite a good book. Yes, Taibbi can be pompous, bombastic and smarmy throughout but he manages to put a human face on Eric Garner. He gives a man who is known nationally as the guy who got shot for selling cigarettes a humanistic identity. He was no angel. He had multiple warts and blemishes but generally speaking he was a good man, who rightly or wrongly was just trying to get by, trying to support his family.

Taibbi provides a very informative synopsis of race and police policy in NYC which is
Patrice Jones
Oct 04, 2017 rated it really liked it
4.5 stars. I absolutely loved the detail and the great lengths that Taibbi went to to write this book. I don't think there is anything more that could have been said about the Eric Garner story. Truth be told, I think it may have been a little too detailed. In cases like this, then you are surely missing out. The cover-ups, the lies, the corruption, the life of the deceased...the media couldn't possibly tell it all and tell it accurately. I love books like this. I highly recommend this book.
Ryan Bell
Nov 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Remarkable reporting on the life and death of Eric Garner and the cast of characters involved in his murder. The story is riveting and pulls the reader along. Most important of all, Taibbi’s portrayal of Eric Garner is meticulously honest and thoroughly humanizing!

On the political front, the degree to which the entire law enforcement complex, from police to judges, DAs to politicians, is rotten to the core, is so clearly portrayed.
Daniel S.
May 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing
One of the most powerful and important books I have read this year. Matt Taibbi masterfully weaves together an intimate portrait of Eric Garner’s life with a deep explanation of the politics, institutions, individuals, and values that ultimately resulted in his death. The phrase, “This should be required reading” is overused, but in this case, it’s true. I Can’t Breathe should be required reading for every American.
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If a true crime audiobook is your idea of the perfect listen, then this post is for you. True crime has been enjoying something o...
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“Most of the crime-ridden minority neighborhoods in New York City, especially areas like East New York, where many of the characters in Eric Garner’s story grew up, had been artificially created by a series of criminal real estate scams.
One of the most infamous had involved a company called the Eastern Service Corporation, which in the sixties ran a huge predatory lending operation all over the city, but particularly in Brooklyn.
Scam artists like ESC would first clear white residents out of certain neighborhoods with scare campaigns. They’d slip leaflets through mail slots warning of an incoming black plague, with messages like, “Don’t wait until it’s too late!” Investors would then come in and buy their houses at depressed rates. Once this “blockbusting” technique cleared the properties, a company like ESC would bring in a new set of homeowners, often minorities, and often with bad credit and shaky job profiles. They bribed officials in the FHA to approve mortgages for anyone and everyone. Appraisals would be inflated. Loans would be approved for repairs, but repairs would never be done.
The typical target homeowner in the con was a black family moving to New York to escape racism in the South. The family would be shown a house in a place like East New York that in reality was only worth about $15,000. But the appraisal would be faked and a loan would be approved for $17,000. The family would move in and instantly find themselves in a house worth $2,000 less than its purchase price, and maybe with faulty toilets, lighting, heat, and (ironically) broken windows besides. Meanwhile, the government-backed loan created by a lender like Eastern Service by then had been sold off to some sucker on the secondary market: a savings bank, a pension fund, or perhaps to Fannie Mae, the government-sponsored mortgage corporation.
Before long, the family would default and be foreclosed upon. Investors would swoop in and buy the property at a distressed price one more time. Next, the one-family home would be converted into a three- or four-family rental property, which would of course quickly fall into even greater disrepair.
This process created ghettos almost instantly. Racial blockbusting is how East New York went from 90 percent white in 1960 to 80 percent black and Hispanic in 1966.”
“The civil rights movement ended in a kind of negotiated compromise. Black Americans were granted legal equality, while white America was allowed to nurture and maintain an illusion of innocence, even as it continued to live in almost complete separation.” 2 likes
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