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Flatiron Hot! News | October 24, 2017

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Flatiron Hot! Pundit: Ismaaiyl Brinsley Killed 2 Cops. How Could Anyone Blame Michael Brown and Eric Garner Protesters?

Flatiron Hot! Pundit: Ismaaiyl Brinsley Killed 2 Cops. How Could Anyone Blame Michael Brown and Eric Garner Protesters?
Eric Shapiro

By Eric Shapiro – edited by the Flatiorn Hot! News Editorial Staff

Imagine waking up one morning, checking the news and discovering that you’ve been blamed for the assassination of two people you’ve never met. That’s exactly what millions of Americans, myself included, experienced on Sunday morning. Our victims: two cops, Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu, assassinated by a clearly deranged individual, Ismaaiyl Brinsley. Our murder weapon? The First Amendment.

What did we do to draw such serious accusations? We took advantage of our right to peacefully assemble and petition the government (and in this case, society more generally) for a redress of grievances. We marched in cities throughout the nation to protest the police killings of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri and Eric Garner in Staten Island, New York and many more. We rallied against a system that devalues black life, subjects people of color to daily indignities, and disproportionately punishes and incarcerates minority groups for crimes that everyone commits. We refused to accept the delusion that racism is dead and marched on behalf of those that racism has killed. We recognized that racism manifests itself in our institutions and, at times, in the conduct of public servants, including police officers. We got angry. We shouted anti-establishment cheers. We engaged in small acts of civil disobedience such as blocking streets, a minor inconvenience to make a major point. Violence was not a part of the equation for the vast majority of us. Sadly, a few people used our cause as justification for looting and, in the case of Brinsley, murder.

From day one, self-righteous reactionaries, in denial about the existence of racism, seized on the looting done by a few individuals to paint the whole movement in a negative light. Attack the character of the protesters, they realize, and there is no need to engage their arguments and, perhaps in the process, touch on some uncomfortable racial biases of their own. Turn the protesters into an army of violent thugs and they “win” the debate without ever having it. The death of two NYPD officers at the hands of an African American man with a penchant for angry, anti-police rhetoric is a dream come true for enemies of the movement. No, they’re not happy about it. But they are all too eager to ghoulishly prop up the dead officers to cement their preferred narrative about protesters as lawless and violent. They’ve seen the movement that way all along; now they have “proof.” Never mind that the Ismaaiyl Brinsley was mentally ill, that he shot his own girlfriend, that he attended no protests. Never mind that his actions have drawn widespread condemnation from protesters who, unlike our detractors, mourn the loss of all innocent life. Never mind that the vast majority of protesters were peaceful in fact and in principle.

For some, preconceived notions rooted in racist stereotypes trump all. They are all too willing to dismiss a whole movement based on one anomalous murder because it reinforces a simplistic, law-and-order narrative that is essential to their worldview. To them, cops are almost holy figures, not human beings prone to error and abuse but infallible protectors of a sacred order. It is impossible to criticize police practices in even the most respectful way without offending these people, who are as oversensitive and petty as they accuse us “politically correct” folks of being. To them, we represent disruption, all our valid grievances disguising an anarchic impulse stemming from violent, unruly and unlawful behavior. To them, we are all, in a sense, Ismaaiyl Brinsley. We are aligned with the forces of darkness, literally and figuratively, so what does it matter who pulled the trigger?

We can only hope that our fledgling movement is strong enough to weather the avalanche of bad press and that we can communicate with the utmost clarity our emphasis on nonviolent protest. Ignoring the causes of tension between police and those they’re policing will only result in an environment that is more hostile and less safe for everyone, especially police officers. The best way to soothe these tensions is through dialogue and the best way to provoke dialogue is by continuing to protest. All the while, we must identify our movement so strongly with nonviolence that no one can possibly lay the murder of police officers at our doorstep.