Monday, December 22, 2014

Disturbed Man Kills Two NYPD Officers: Blame Game Ensues

As you might have noticed (and I was planning on writing a separate post touching on this and still may later this week or next) there have been recent nationwide protests about the level of (often deadly) violence which US local police forces use against Black Americans, especially Black males, especially young and/or unarmed Black males. In the cases of the deaths of Michael Brown, John Crawford and Eric Garner, mostly white grand juries and/or prosecutors refused to charge the police with any crime at all. Some white supporters of police not only applaud and celebrate these no indictment outcomes but take to the media to lecture black people on their actual or perceived shortcomings and point out that in the big picture, police killings of citizens are relatively rare events. So quit crying and be happy you're living in America. Or something. The same people taking a phlegmatic view about police on citizen violence started singing a different tune when a disturbed and violent young man shot and killed two NYPD police officers, after shooting his girlfriend and before killing himself.

Two police officers sitting in their patrol car in Brooklyn were shot at point-blank range and killed on Saturday afternoon by a man who, officials said, had traveled to the city from Baltimore vowing to kill officers. The suspect then committed suicide with the same gun, the authorities said. The officers, Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos, were in the car near Myrtle and Tompkins Avenues in Bedford-Stuyvesant in the shadow of a tall housing project when the gunman, Ismaaiyl Brinsley, walked up to the passenger-side window and assumed a firing stance, Police Commissioner William J. Bratton said. Mr. Brinsley shot several rounds into the heads and upper bodies of the officers, who never drew their weapons, the authorities said.

Suddenly the relatively rare incident of a citizen shooting and killing two police officers became the foreseeable outcome of "anti-police rhetoric" and "incendiary comments" made by various anti-police brutality protesters and such persons as President Barack Obama, Attorney General Eric Holder and professional gadfly/MSNBC host Al Sharpton and probably any other black person to the left of Ben Carson. At least that is what former NYC Mayor Rudy Giuliani and Police Union leader Pat Lynch said.

To paraphrase and expand on what a friend on facebook pointed out recently, remember the meltdown the right-wing media and police unions had over the (alleged) murder of a Pennsylvania state trooper by right-winger Eric Frein? Remember how mad Giuliani and Sean Hannity got at their right wing drinking buddies for all the murderous anti-government and anti-police sentiment that presaged the murders of police officers by Cliven Bundy supporters Jerad and Amanda Miller? Remember how right-wing Congressman Steve King of Iowa harshly criticized the anti-tax/militia members of the right for setting the stage for the murderous actions of Joseph Stack?  Remember how conservatives were horrified about the murders committed by Fox News viewer Jim David Adkisson who felt compelled to murder Unitarians because they were liberal? Conservatives felt so despondent about this that they forced Fox News to reduce or eliminate its demonization of liberals. Right. Of course you don't remember any of that because none of it ever took place. Rather than condemn Stack, Congressman Steve King did all but say he sympathized with him and blamed the IRS for existing. By the standard which people like Giuliani or Congressman Peter King seek to apply to others they themselves have "blood on their hands". They would disagree with this. Their argument is of course weak. They seek to delegitimize all protest against police brutality and police misconduct. It's the same media playbook that conservatives used against MLK and others in the sixties. Giuliani is incapable of perceiving that such a thing as police misconduct exists. It's a blind spot that both he and several police officers seem to share. I remain amazed that such a bitterly malevolent person was ever elected to any office but that's an essay for another day.
It apparently has to be written out in bold letters but it is possible to protest against police brutality and murder of citizens without also cheering for the murder of police officers. And I think most decent Americans realize this. If I protest against racist police that doesn't automatically mean that I hate all white people or all police. That said, much as Malcolm X once got in hot water for saying that chickens coming home to roost was a certainty, it's important to realize that a system that does not provide a sense of justice will see more and more confrontations and killings between officers and citizens. If we don't want this (and who does?), all of us must work to weed out and punish the bad officers. If the man who murdered those officers hadn't killed himself it's a certainty that unlike police officers who have killed citizens, he would have been arrested, indicted and convicted. Giuliani is not going to dig up irrelevant dirt on the deceased officers as he did with unarmed Black men shot by police. No one is going to claim, as Donald Trump did with the vindicated Central Park Five, that these police weren't angels. No one is going to wonder if the police did anything to cause Mr. Brinsley to fear for his life and use justified force. So just as I don't think that the actions of Darren Wilson or Daniel Pantaleo mean that all officers are murderous goons, I don't think that protesting their brutality means you cheer Brinsley. I don't want cops shooting innocent people. I also don't want crazy people shooting cops. It's not an either/or situation. And whether Giuliani or Lynch or anyone else like protests or not they are lawful. I am sure that were a person like Giuliani to obtain greater power than he had he would eliminate protests altogether but fortunately this little amendment is still in effect. Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

What are your thoughts?

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