Eric Garner and Michael Brown Join MLK as Civil Rights Martyrs on New Yorker’s Cover
‘Dream of Reconciliation’ also includes slain officer Wenjian Liu
By David Griner
Over the past year, race relations in America have been more volatile than at almost any time since the 1960s, a fact The New Yorker’s cover next week will highlight in a bold way.
Created to mark Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the cover illustration by Barry Blitt is called “The Dream of Reconciliation” and shows King marching alongside several black men whose deaths drew protests after a lack of prosecution or conviction: Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner and Michael Brown.
Martin was fatally shot in 2012 by neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman, who claimed he was defending himself after confronting Martin for supposedly suspicious activity. A jury acquitted Zimmerman of second-degree murder in July 2013.
Garner died in July 2014 after an NYPD officer detained him by wrapping his arm around Garner’s neck. The altercation was recorded on video, and Garner could be heard repeatedly saying, “I can’t breathe,” but a grand jury declined to indict the officer in December.
Michael Brown was killed by police in August 2014 after reportedly struggling with a white police officer who confronted him in a Ferguson, Missouri, street. Brown, a suspect in a recent strong-arm robbery, was shot multiple times, and a grand jury’s decision not to indict the officer led to widespread protest and looting in late 2014.
However, Blitt’s image also includes NYPD officer Wenjian Liu (posthumously promoted to detective), one of two patrolmen slain in a Brooklyn ambush in December. Their attacker, who later killed himself, claimed he was seeking revenge against the NYPD for cases like Garner’s.
While many who have protested the recent killings of unarmed black men as a modern civil rights crisis will praise the cover, the image is also sure to inspire outrage from those who have supported the police officers’ actions as justifiable in the line of duty.
In a statement about his inspiration, Blitt described the idea behind the cover:
“It struck me that King’s vision was both the empowerment of African Americans, the insistence on civil rights, but also the reconciliation of people who seemed so hard to reconcile,” Blitt said. “In New York and elsewhere, the tension between the police and the policed is at the center of things. Like Trayvon Martin and Eric Garner, Michael Brown and Officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos, Martin Luther King was taken way too early. It is hard to believe things would have got as bad as they are if he was still around today.”