Target: Jason Barthel, Business Owner
Goal: Urge business owner to stop selling inaccurate anti-protest shirts
In response to protest shirts with the “I can’t breathe” slogan, one business owner has released his own shirt. Jason Barthel says that the release of his shirt, with the slogan “Breathe easy, Don’t break the law,” was meant to bring people together and is in no way a negative statement about recent protests. Despite Mr. Barthel’s intentions however, his shirt is necessarily counter to the ones being worn by protesters as his shirts are inaccurate and fail to take into account the circumstances in which these unarmed black men were killed.
Barthel’s shirts bear some good advice for all. It’s true: People should follow the laws that we as a society have created. However, the shirts fail to address that in many of these cases, the victims of police violence were in fact following the law. Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old black boy from Cleveland, was shot for having a toy gun, not breaking a law. The slogan also fails to recognize that sometimes the law can be unjust. For example, the murderers of Eric Garner were not indicted for any crime, nor was the murderer of Mike Brown, Jr. Urging people to obey a law that is unjust is far more harmful than people disobeying it with civil disobedience.
The shirt’s slogans are also necessarily counter to the protest, despite Barthel’s intentions, because breaking the law by blocking traffic or with peaceful protests is the only way to spread a message of discontent with the current system. There are no other avenues. Please act now to ensure people’s right to free speech and to have these shirts taken off the market.
Dear Mr. Barthel,
Your recent effort to promote unity by releasing t-shirts with the slogan “Breathe easy, Don’t break the law” is commendable but ultimately counterproductive. What your slogan fails to recognize is that obeying the law does not always offer people the safety it should. In the case of Tamir Rice, no law was broken. They also fail to recognize that sometimes the law is unjust. There were no criminal charges brought against the killers of Mike Brown, Jr. or Eric Garner, so clearly the law is not always correct.
The intention behind these shirts is admirable, but they are ultimately counter to the shirts and actions taken by protesters. Breaking the law with civil disobedience is the only way to show dissatisfaction with a system and there is no doubt that the violence against black men in our country is systemic. For all of these reasons, I humbly ask you to take your shirts off of the market. I understand that you were only trying to help ease some of the tensions that have flared in recent weeks, but in the end you’re only adding fuel to the fire.
[Your Name Here]
Photo Credit: Thomas Altfather Good via Wikimedia Commons