© Josh Sager – December 2014
Last Saturday (12/20/14), a New York resident named Ismaaiyl Brinsley executed two police officers—Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos—at point-blank range while they sat in their parked police cruiser. As far as we can tell, this was not a result of a personal grudge between Brinsley and the officers, but rather a random act of anti-police violence by Brisley.
Before the shooting, Brinsley posted numerous anti-police sentiments online—including an Instagram post that morning which said that he was going to put “wings on pigs today” in retaliation for the Eric Garner killing.
After the shooting, Brinsley was pursued by police down into a nearby subway station, where he turned the gun on himself and took his own life. The gun was recovered at the scene and there is virtually no doubt that he is guilty.
In response to the shooting, the police have railed against Mayor De Blasio and the protesters who flooded the street after the refusal of the grand jury to indict the police officer who murdered Eric Garner with an illegal chokehold (at least, according to police regulations and the medical examiner).
First and foremost, I have a lot of sympathy for the police officers who were killed and condemn any violence against any group, including the police. The police are a necessary part of any society and should not face the threat of such extreme violence while doing their jobs.
That said, the police have long failed to realize that people can only be pushed so far before something snaps (that “something” usually being the least balanced and rational people in society). For years, the NYPD have “stopped and frisked” minorities with impunity while completely disregarding the feelings of the community. This long-term tension set the stage for conflict with police, while the recent cases of Michael Brown, Eric Garner, and Tamir Rice created a powerful catalyst for extreme reactions—in short, many Americans have lost faith in the justice system being fair to people like them and are no longer willing to take it lying down.
The failure of prosecutors to even get indictments when police have killed young black males, under extremely suspect circumstances (when over 95% of indictments go through), has given the perception that police officers have the right to kill at will. In this situation, people who are both disenfranchised and without a good degree of impulse control can become extremely dangerous to anybody who they can blame for their helplessness.
In short, when people don’t have faith that they can get justice, they often turn to blind and destructive revenge—this can take the form of riots, the murder of police, vigilante justice, or even assassination attempts against lawmakers.
“A riot is the language of the unheard.”
–Martin Luther King Jr.–
If police departments don’t want this kind of violence to be directed at random police officers in the future (not excusing the perpetrators of that violence), they must take steps to punish those who abuse their power. The perception that the police are an occupying force rather than a protective force will inevitably lead to more violence and the only way to fix such a perception is by ensuring that police officers who break the law are punished within the law. Officers who murder citizens should face a jury of their peers, rather than a fixed grand jury that renders a secret preemption of a fair trial.
Additionally, the idea that the NYPD is blaming De Blasio for this shooting, simply because he has shown a willingness to call them out when they violate peoples’ rights, is both wrongheaded and an offensive attempt to turn a tragedy into a political weapon (a la neocons using 9/11 to attack Democrats). People aren’t angry at the NYPD because De Blasio pointed out that the NYPD is abusing their authority—they already knew that because they were living it. This effort by the NYPD to tar De Blasio with blame this murder is an attempt to turn this tragedy to a previous political effort and is an offense to the memory of the dead officers.
Josh, I think every group in this country is tired, frustrated, and too close to giving up. The perfect storm for Fascists to move in and attempt to inflame the rhetoric, keeping people angry and at each other’s throats.
I mourn for on duty police officers killed, I mourn for the those wrongly killed by police actions. Watch and see which people seek to escalate this social war – and you will be seeing the real root of the problem. Some of the realities that minorities deal with everyday, were finally brought to public attention with Trayvon Martin’s murder, and the subsequent lack of justice. Clear evidence of illegal police actions have followed in rapid succession. Clear evidence of attempts to thwart protests of those actions is also present.
There is also very clear evidence that media, and those who wish to have the upper hand over society by creating division – have been very hard at work, making sure that two extremely divided factions stay at each other’s throats. We will never read of Giuliani ( and his ilk ) for example, calling for calm and justice for both.
On the ‘other side’ of the situation, are those that perpetuate the meme that all “cops are racist, militarized pigs”. The only ones I’ve seen pictures of holdup those signs are white folks, some of whom are more than happy to exploit what is true injustice for their own purposes. Some in police forces are racists. The vast majority are not. The majority of police officers do their work with little fanfare or thanks. The majority of US citizens don’t give police a thought, until they need to call them for help, or are caught in minor offenses.
Last, I mourn for an entire society that seems to have lost not only it’s ability to think clearly , but also it’s moral compass. Reaction has replaced action, hyperbole has replaced truth, and the American divide grows stronger, as many conclude with the rhetoric of hate and division: ” If you’re not with us – you’re against us” . Neither “side” is served by propaganda and hate. The only ones those words serve, are those that wish to see America fail.
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