The #Blacklivesmatter movement (specifically, its current iteration in response to police killings of unarmed Black people across the country) has at no point suggested that murdering police officers is the answer to the unending abuses of people of color at the hands of law enforcement. To even have to say as much speaks volumes about the lengths that detractors have gone to in order to avoid actually understanding what this fight is about.
Organizers and participants in the resistance movement were stunned and horrified by the murder of NYPD officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos by Ismaaiyl Brinsley because it is antithetical to the work they have been doing and has created more trauma for a community that has already seen far too much violence and loss.
Yet provocateurs such as former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, former Governor George Pataki, NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton and Patrick Lynch of the NYPD Police Benevolent Association have decided to put protestors in increased danger with violent, politically charged statements following the tragedy that unfolded in Bedford-Stuyvesant this past weekend.
“This was a cold-blooded assassination like we haven’t never [sic] seen before,” said Lynch, president of the PBA. Bratton also used the word “assassination” to refer to the execution-style murder of the two officers. While one would be wrong to dismiss the horrific manner in which the men were killed, the politically charged nature with which Lynch and Bratton describe the shooting likens police officers to heads of state and speaks to this idea of “wartime” policing that has circulated around social media.
In a statement to reporters on the night of the shooting, Lynch blamed protestors and Mayor Bill de Blasio for the murders: “There’s blood on many hands tonight—those that incited violence on the street under the guise of protests, that tried to tear down what New York City police officers did every day. That blood on the hands starts on the steps of City Hall, in the office of the mayor.”
Mayor Giuliani, who uses his experiences as the person who happened to be the mayor during the 9/11 attacks to shill identity monitoring systems, appeared on Fox News on Sunday and went as far as to blame President Obama for the shooting, stating that he, and other leaders, have told everyone to “hate the police.” He dismissed claims of police brutality and racism, adding “Actually, the people who do the most for the Black community in America are the police.”
Giuliani, who would have likely blamed a Black custodial worker on the Fox News set if one had been in his line of sight, also charged Attorney General Eric Holder and Reverend Al Sharpton with responsibility for the murders, stating, “They have created an atmosphere of severe, strong, anti-police hatred in certain communities. For that, they should be ashamed of themselves.” This is, of course, in stark contrast with the many times that Obama, Holder and Sharpton have praised effective police work and called for “healing” between Blacks and law enforcement.
Former Govenor Pataki offered this on Twitter just hours after the shooting:
— George E. Pataki (@GovernorPataki) December 21, 2014
Commissioner Bratton echoed Lynch’s animus towards anti-police brutality protestors on an NBC appearance, telling Matt Lauer, “What’s quite apparent, obvious, is that the target of these two police officers was a direct spinoff of this issue of these demonstrations.” He fell short of blaming Mayor de Blasio, who hired him, instead saying that Republicans Giuliani and Pataki were making this a partisan issue by attacking Obama and the current mayor, which he said to be “unfortunate. This should be bringing us together, not taking us apart.”
It should be noted that there has been little said about Brinsley’s first known victim, his former girlfriend Shaneka Thompson, who was shot early Saturday morning and is expected to survive. Should we be surprised that these outraged men had no time to offer thoughts to her? Perhaps not, considering that she disrupts the idea of Brinsley as an active member of the protest movement.
Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams also unfairly implicated protestors by asking that marches be halted until the officers are buried, claiming that these officers were “representative of what the protesters are fighting for” and “wanted to change the relationship between the community and the police”—a strange request, and one that still conflates the anti-police brutality movement with anti-police violence.
Considering the ease with which the NYPD has committed acts of state-sanctioned brutality against American citizens prior to this horrific double murder, one wonders how cops who are now triggered by this act of violence and emboldened by the words of people like Lynch and Giuliani will behave when faced with protestors, and how this will impact the ways in which they police neighborhoods like Bedford-Stuyvesant.
This crime and the response of those with a vested interest in dismantling and discrediting the anti-police brutality movement are devastating to the thousands of people across the country who have committed their lives to making America safer for Black people. However, there will be no end to the cry of “Black lives matter” and this movement will not take on the responsibility for crimes it did not commit. Period. We don’t have to say that “Blue lives matter,” because neither society nor “the system” has ever suggested otherwise—quite the opposite, in fact.
We know that “Blue lives matter,” because when an officer of the law kills an unarmed civilian of color, that officer is almost guaranteed to escape any punishment, because his life matters. Why? Because the presumption is that most of us, especially Black men, are capable of the horrific act committed by Ismaaiyl Brinsley and that officers have a duty to defend themselves first.
That Brinsley made an attempt on the life of his former girlfriend tells us a lot about him, but there are many unanswered questions and there is great danger in speculating too much. However, history has taught us that oppression triggers violence. Those officers wore a uniform that has become a symbol of domestic terrorism in the eyes of many Americans.
There is and will be no valid excuse for what this awful man did—ending two lives and attempting to end a third in an act of domestic violence that has barely made a blip on the media radar, because BLUE LIVES MATTER AND BLACK FEMALE ONES DO NOT—but we must examine how police brutality against civilians can trigger civilian violence against police and dismantle these practices and the systems that sustain them for all of our safety.
No family should have to bury a loved one felled by an act of senseless violence. That the Liu and Ramos families will now know the pain felt by the survivors of Eric Garner and Tanesha Anderson this holiday season brings no comfort to anyone.
Alas, healing will only come with justice and peace is nowhere in sight. The movement continues.
Jamilah Lemieux is EBONY.com’s Senior Editor. Views expressed her are her own.