Indiana Cop Creates “Breathe Easy, Don’t Break the Law” T-Shirts

Following a nationwide wave of demonstrations demanding justice in the murders of several unarmed black youth and black men, and following the assassination of two New York City police officers, police across the country are displaying the kind of behavior and attitudes that substantiates concerns about police actions.

In New York City, the president of the police officers union, Patrick Lynch, has all but declared open warfare against Mayor Bill de Blasio, encouraging members to turn their backs on the mayor during any of his public appearances, including at the funerals of the two murdered officers.

At a recent Los Angeles charity event -- hosted by a retired police officer, and where at least half the attendees were also retired officers, lyrics in a song to the tune of "Bad, Bad LeRoy Brown" -- a video of which was obtained by TMZ -- referred to Michael Brown as "dead, dead Michael Brown" and "roadkill dog."

And, a few days before Christmas, an enterprising Indiana police officer named Jason Barthel, who is a 13-year veteran of the Mishawaka Police Department, and is also the owner of South Bend Uniform Co., has come up with a new t-shirt to support his fellow police officers, and, not so coincidentally to make some money.

The t-shirt's message: “Breathe Easy, Don’t Break the Law.”

Writing for The Heritage Foundation's The Daily Signal, Philip Wegmann reported that Barthel came up with the idea for the t-shirt because the wearing of "I Can't Breathe" t-shirts by some sports figures, members of high school and college basketball teams, and demonstrators across the country seemed to him "as if there were a lot of people thumbing their nose at the police,” Barthel told The Daily Signal that he fashioned his own T-shirts as “a retort to the ‘I Can’t Breathe’ movement.”

The “I Can’t Breathe” t-shirts started springing up across the country after a Grand Jury refused to indict the police officers responsible for the choking death of Eric Garner on the streets of Staten Island, one of New York City’s five boroughs. Garner’s last words were “I Can’t Breathe.”

“Up until that point, nobody from our side of the world—the police world—had really said anything on our behalf,” Barthel said.

He told The Daily Signal that “From the perspective of a policeman,” the t-shirt says that “we’re here for you, and we won’t have any problems with you if you’re not breaking the law. Don’t do the wrong thing and you won’t have a bad run in-with the police.”

Although Barthel claims that he was not intending to sow further discord between communities and police, several local activists have registered their strong disapproval of his entrepreneurial efforts. According to Wegmann, "the local president of the NAACP, Rev. Terrell Jackson, three members of the South Bend City Council urged Barthel to 'discontinue sales.'”

Wegmann pointed out that "This is more than an idle threat considering that, according to a report by the Star Tribune, public records show that the city of South Bend made purchases of more than $64,700 from Barthel’s company in 2013 alone."

According to The Washington Times, The South Bend Uniform Co., put out a statement saying: “For those upset, please understand when we use the slogan ‘Breathe Easy’ we are referring to knowing the police are there for you! We are one people, one nation regardless of race, religion, creed or gender. We are all in this together. The police are here to protect and serve. 99.9% of us have the greater good in our hearts each time we strap on our uniforms and duty belts. We are all one people and this is by no means is a slam on Eric Garner or his family, God rest his soul. Let’s all band together as AMERICANS regardless of our feelings and know we can and will be better! Thank you for your support.”

Barthel is not only going ahead with the t-shirt sales, but he has "trademarked 'Breathe Easy' apparel includes sweatshirts, hoodies and ball caps," and he claims that he has received “tens of thousands of orders,” both domestically and internationally.

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