Don’t Stop the Protests Against Police Brutality — Black Lives Still Matter

No group should be asked to forgo Constitutional rights.

Last summer, Jerad and Amanda Miller walked into a CiCi’s Pizza restaurant in Las Vegas and murdered two police officers who were sitting down and having lunch. Jerad Miller pulled out a handgun and shot one officer in the back of his head, and before the other officer could react, Miller shot him in the throat. Amanda then joined in, as the couple lit up the incapacitated officers. Afterwards, the Millers placed the deceased bodies on the floor and covered them with a Gadsden flag and a swastika. The former, a Revolutionary War-era flag adopted by libertarian groups, is important because the Millers were rabid anti-government activists, whose history of extremism was well documented. Video also surfaced showing the pair protesting at Cliven Bundy’s ranch.

Bundy is the Nevada rancher who since 1993 has refused to pay grazing fees. He is also the man who alluded to possibly happier times when Negroes were slaves and had, he said, more freedom. The standoff between him and the government became a cri de coeur of anti-government, right-wing activists. Yet there was no mass outcry, after the Millers murdered those two officers, against Bundy, his supporters, cable news, or tea party groups (the occasional pundit notwithstanding). There were certainly no calls for a cessation of first amendment rights.

Fast forward to Saturday, when Ismaaiyl Abdullah Brinsley killed two New York police officers as they sat in a marked patrol car outside a housing project in Bedford-Stuyvesant. Brinsley, who had long struggled with mental illness, tied the shootings on social media to the death of Eric Garner, who died in a chokehold during a confrontation with New York police officers.

The outrage machine was ready and salivating. The George Patakis, Rudy Giulianis and Pat Lynches of the world had been waiting for something like this to happen, so they could lash out at those they view as their enemies. Pataki, the Republican former New York Governor, took to Twitter and blamed the police shootings on the supposed anti-cop rhetoric of outgoing U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and liberal New York Mayor Bill de Blasio. I could not recall any anti-cop musings from Holder and de Blasio, so I went back and searched. They said, in essence, that America’s police departments have a history of targeting and violating black people. That is it. But since we live in a country where police officers are so highly respected and immune to criticism — even when they are recorded doing something wrong — de Blasio’s timid remarks qualify as anti-cop.

Lynch, the fanatical president of the NYPD union, even went so far to accuse de Blasio of having the dead officers’ blood on his hands. Meanwhile, Giuliani — who has reemerged from his reprobate business dealings to reclaim his role as America’s reigning racial arsonist — blamed Barack Obama. “They [Obama and de Blasio] have created an atmosphere of severe, strong, anti-police hatred in certain communities. For that, they should be ashamed of themselves,” he said on Fox News.

The family of Michael Brown, the widely mourned Ferguson, Missouri police shooting victim, put out a statement that condemned the killings. It’s hard to think of why a Midwestern family a time zone away should have to comment on a shooting in New York, other than that black Americans are always thought to be responsible — some how, some way — for crimes to which they have no connection. As one Twitter user posted Saturday, “Only in America does the still-grieving family of a murdered black child have to come out with a statement about an unrelated crime.” And Garner’s daughter visited a memorial set up for the slain officers. Did NYPD commissioner Bill Bratton visit Garner’s makeshift memorial? Did de Blasio?

The lives of the officers killed in Brooklyn were no more valuable or precious than those of Garner or Brown, to say nothing of Tamir Rice (fatally shot by police at age 12 while playing with a toy gun) or John Crawford (fatally shot while walking through Wal Mart with a BB gun). But today an apparently cowed de Blasio called for the protests, which were spawned by the killings of the aforementioned black males, to stop. “Put aside protest,” he said, “put aside demonstrations, until these funerals are passed. Let’s just focus on these families and what they have lost.”

Stop protesting police brutality. Stop demanding racial justice. Stop fighting for black life.

The murders of the two NYPD officers were ghastly, but no group of Americans should be asked to stop exercising their Constitutional rights because of what occurred in Brooklyn. This is particularly true for black Americans who have long been admonished to wait their turn. Black citizens are always expected to give up so much for a country that has given them so little. But two weeks ago New York activists organized a giant demonstration to protest police brutality.

I marched for seven hours in the city I now call home. In front of me, for a chunk of that time, was a father and his son. The son appeared to be 3 or 4 years old. At one point we passed a phalanx of NYPD officers whom the father promptly flipped off. He then looked down at his son, while motioning to the massive crowd, and said, simply, “This is for you.” And so, despite Saturday’s horrible events, black lives still matter.

This post has been amended to reflect the author’s views on the Millions March NYC.

Editor’s Note: February 2, 2016
After uncovering misattributed quotes in stories written by Juan Thompson, a former staff reporter, The Intercept conducted a review of his work. The quote attributed to an anonymous protester could not be confirmed.

Photo: Anthony Behar/AP

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