Oregon lawmaker accused of racism, denies it

SALEM, Ore. (AP) — An Oregon state senator has been accused of racism by a fellow lawmaker for referencing the death of Eric Garner, a black man killed in New York by police using a chokehold, in a statement opposing cigarette taxes and using Garner’s last words: “I can’t breathe.”

Rep. Diego Hernandez said Friday on Facebook he believes the statement from Sen. Dennis Linthicum is racist and unacceptable.

But Linthicum, in an interview, said he intended no racism and was only trying to draw attention to disproportionate and abusive power of local governments. Garner was killed in July 2014 after officers stopped him for selling untaxed cigarettes.

The statement issued Thursday by Linthicum’s spokesman said a tobacco tax was the root cause of why Garner was tackled by police.