Terrell Jermaine Starr, at AlterNet, compiled a comprehensive article on the recent shooting of two police officers in Ferguson. I touched on this briefly, but wanted to go over a few points. While Terrell admirably called out St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar’s bogus claim that the shooter was in the midst of the protest, pllus Senator Blunt’s inane attempt to link acknowledgement of police militarization to the shooting itself, Terrell’s sentiments are not all of ours:
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.
The protest – not the Ferguson protests, nor the Garner protests – but the practice of the modern protest in general, is fundamentally an exercise endorsed by authority. It is permitted by authority, the rules are set by authority and it is allowed to exist only as long as the decree of authority stands. The leaders of protests, the vast majority of whom direct them to be “peaceful” and “law-abiding,” are often individuals in positions of authority themselves. And they use the protest movements to amass an additional “currency” of power. This is not to denigrate the protest as a tool, rather to note the way protests are used in modern America. They are within the very powers they often claim to combat.
The Occupy Wall Street movement is an example. The name itself, Occupy, is a reference to the literal occupation of buildings and spaces in protests past. These were effective protests. They were also illegal and, by the standards of most protest leaders today, not peaceful. (And “peaceful” or not depends on if you consider destruction of property “violent” or not.)
Moreover, even violent acts are acts of protest. When the “lone wolf killer” shot two New York City officers this, too, was an act of protest. It was not solely an act of protest. And I will not go into the character or motivations of the shooter except to say that at least one factor was retaliation for the murder of Eric Garner by police officers.
As long as law enforcement acts as a force of violence and destruction in our communities then we should expect people to act violent and destructive toward police officers. This is not a deontological statement. I am not saying that you should act in any specific way; you decide that for yourself. I’m saying that we should, if we have even a rudimentary understanding of human society, expect retaliatory violence toward those who initiate violence.
You will never catch me writing a phrase as Terrell did; “every time a cop is shot is deplorable.” I don’t share the need to hedge my critique of law enforcement with an apology. Every time a cop is shot it is because they are a cop. The nature of law enforcement means that police officers put themselves in inherently abusive positions. Individuals shoot cops because they have been abused by law enforcement in the past. Innocent people have been infringed upon. And not by rare “bad apples,” but the institution of criminal justice itself. Individuals shoot cops in retaliation for the institutional violence committed by the justice system.
I do like the fact Terrell included excerpts from the Twitter hashtag “#BlueLivesMatter.” In fact, I agree, though it might not sound like it. I believe that “blue lives” do matter. My solution is to treat them like any other life. Abolish law enforcement, abolish the police, and no one will target police officers with retaliatory violence. That’s a real solution, believe it or not. In fact, it is the only complete solution.
I’ll end this by adding that “#BlueLivesMatter” is also completely ridiculous. Not because their lives don’t matter, but because the lives of police officers matter disproportionately in American culture and law. (And because juxtaposing “blue lives” with people of color is absurd.) The resources dedicated to investigating and capturing those suspected of harming law enforcement are not dedicated to those who harm non-LEOs. A nationwide manhunt is not conducted when a random killing happens on the street. The sentencing for cop killers is disproportionately higher than the sentencing for homicide convictions in general. From a cultural and legal perspective, blue lives matter disproportionately.