Blaming Protesters for Ferguson Police Shootings Is a Deliberate Tactic
It was not too long after two police officers were shot in Ferguson, Mo. in the midst of an otherwise peaceful protest Wednesday night that law and order types sought to blame protesters for the crime. St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar claims the shooter was embedded among the protesters, providing not one shred of evidence for this claim. Most witnesses said the shots seemed to come from the hill behind where the protesters were assembled. Three people were detained and questioned, apparently because police thought they were “acting shady” when they drove away from the scene of the shooting, but they were released. The two police officers who were hit have reportedly been released from the hospital.
U.S. Senator Roy Blunt of Missouri immediately made a veiled attempt to connect last night’s shooting to the protests. “I think the irresponsible discussion that began last year of the so-called ‘militarization’ of police was almost totally fact-free,” Blunt said, according to msnbc.com. “The police are trying to get home to their families alive. They have a hard job to do, protecting people and protecting protesters. Clearly, the protesters themselves were very near where the police were shot last night, and we should be concerned about that fact.”
Absolutely no evidence has been brought forth to connect the shootings to anyone involved in the protests. But for reasons that can only be linked to racist paranoia over non-existent “protester-on-cop violence,” the first knee-jerk reactions from those who despise #BlackLivesMatter was to tweet anti-black sentiments under #BlueLivesMatter. A sampling:
@Vickie627 : The #Ferguson #protesters have no #right to put #lives in danger. #BlueLivesMatter— 🌾MyNameMeansLady (@🌾MyNameMeansLady)1426187237.0
#BlueLivesMatter and no amount of complaining/protesting will ever change that fact.— Kelley (@Kelley)1426201611.0
#BlueLivesMatter enact marshal law and curfews, anyone on the street after dark arrested. No more protests this insanity needs to end NOW— Paul Rainwater (@Paul Rainwater)1426207715.0
Fine One sided Sonny Let the "citizens" of #Ferguson take care of themselves. I implore the officers to walk off the job. #BlueLivesMatter— EFL (@EFL)1426200884.0
#Ferguson PD getting reinforcements anticipating more protestors tonight. Is there no remorse? These people are animals! #BlueLivesMatter— Sam (@Sam)1426197207.0
While every time a cop is shot is deplorable, here's a newsflash for those who would claim cops are under siege. Police killings have been on the decline over the last 20 years, with the 2000s being the lowest in the century.
If blaming activists and protesters for violence against police officers sounds familiar, it’s because that is exactly what happened last August when two New York City police officers were assassinated by a lone wolf killer who later killed himself. Here, too, largely peaceful protests against police violence and the officer who choked Eric Garner to death getting off scott-free were blamed.
It’s like deja vu all over again. “Hopefully, people will see through this rhetoric, like they saw through it in August,” DeRay McKesson, 29, a protester who was near the Ferguson Police Department at the time of the shooting, told AlterNet.
When they’re not blaming the protesters themselves, conservative commentators like to blame the entire black community for somehow making the police over-police them.
Charles Barkley lamented those who criticized law enforcement during an interview on CNN, in December, by saying that if it weren’t for police, the “ghetto” would be the “wild, wild west.”
Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani tried to derail the national dialogue on police brutality in November on NBC’s Meet the Press when he said about the shooting of unarmed teenager Michael Brown, “93 percent of blacks are killed by other blacks. We're talking about the exception here." Giuliani doubled down on his unilateral defense of cops when he commented Thursday that police officer Darren Wilson should be "commended" for doing his job when he shot Brown. He also dismissed the Department of Justice’s scathing report on racist policing in Ferguson calling the thoroughly documented pattern of abuse mere allegations.
That pattern of abuse is precisely why the protesters were gathered at the Ferguson Police headquarters. “People know that we’re against violence,” McKesson said. “We know that police killings aren’t a tactic to get justice.
The reality is that the vast majority of people killed by law enforcement nationwide and who suffer the economic consequences of hyper-policing are black. Many people may wish to write off Giuliani as just some right-wing nut, but the reality is that many white Americans tend not to think police brutality is a pressing issue. A recent study reveals that 52 percent of white people place a great deal of confidence in the police, compared to just 12 percent of black people.
It is quite clear there is a racial divide in how black and white Americans view policing. Though recent police shootings reveal a stark reality: In the past five days alone, at least three unarmed black men have been killed by police in the United States.
Operative word “unarmed.” Meanwhile a white Open Carry activist strolled around a school with his gun, practically daring police officers to shoot him. None did.
Activists weren’t out Wednesday night in Ferguson in order to ambush police officers; they were out demanding that police officers stop killing and abusing them.
Now that the DOJ has brought Ferguson’s police tactics to light, it ought to be clear to the world why protesters are demanding justice. Everything, from racist emails being exchanged between city officials, traffic stops that target black Americans 86 percent of the time and the fees that earned from it that generates much of Ferguson’s revenue is a direct attack against its black citizenry. And it is not just Ferguson. Many in the black community feel that policing in America is done to the detriment of black Americans’ safety.
But demanding reform is not the same as saying, “Black people hate police.”
To accuse protesters of anti-police sentiment or blame them for the Ferguson police shootings is a deliberate distraction. Instead, what should be noted is that Ferguson protesters have exercised remarkable restraint in the face of aggressive policing. Police have tear-gassed peacefully-assembled crowds and menaced them with crowd-control K-9s, all for demanding that those who took an oath to protect them not abuse and shoot them only to be let off the hook. To insist that protesters remain peaceful and non-violent in the face of intense, militarized, Civil Rights-era police intimidation is nothing more than victim blaming. To connect them to the shootings is an insult.
“After all of the work of 216 days, why would we shoot a cop,” Larry Fellows III, one of the protesters on scene when the shooting took place early Thursday morning, told AlterNet. “We don’t benefit from that. We have nothing to gain from that.”
The shooting of two police officers, as wrong as that is, should not derail critical conversations over the racist police tactics activists were protesting in the front of the Ferguson Police Department Headquarters.