Indiana Police Officer Jason Barthel created the ‘Breathe Easy, Don’t Break the Law’ t-shirt allowing citizens across America to show support for their law enforcement officers.
The Daily Signal’s Philip Wegmann reports:
One small business is booming as the debate rages over police shootings.
With a T-shirt, police officer Jason Barthel ignited a national controversy. Ten days before Christmas, the owner of South Bend Uniform Co. debuted T-shirts emblazoned with this controversial message: “Breathe Easy, Don’t Break the Law.”
Barthel twisted the rallying cry of a national protest sweeping the country. Since early December, numerous NBA and NCAA basketball teams have sported “I Can’t Breathe” warm-up jerseys commemorating the last words of Eric Garner and protesting his untimely death.
Frustrated that this apparel “made it seem 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.”
“Up until that point, nobody from our side of the world—the police world—had really said anything on our behalf,” Barthel said.
Barthel, a 13-year veteran of the Mishawaka Police Department, wants to fill that void.
“From the perspective of a policeman,” the clothing communicates that “we’re here for you, and we won’t have any problems with you if you’re not breaking the law.
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Some members of the community aren’t convinced.
In an open letter, a coalition of community leaders condemned a product they believe “damages the goal of unity and further divides our community.”
Joined by the local president of the NAACP, Rev. Terrell Jackson, three members of the South Bend City Council urged Barthel to “discontinue sales.”
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.