Murder of Two Cops in New York City Leads To Calls for the Movement to Step Back
By John Leslie
Following police murders of Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO and Eric Garner in New York, there have been unprecedented sustained mobilizations across the US for police accountability. The uprising in Ferguson, after the killing of Michael Brown, was met with a militarized police response as protesters were tear gassed and attacked with rubber bullets.
Following the grand jury decisions in both cases, where cops were let off the hook, there have been large demonstrations in cities and towns in the US around the slogans, “Black Lives Matter”, “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot”, and “We Can’t Breathe.” We can’t breathe is a reference to the choke-hold death of Eric Garner and Mr. Garner’s last words. Perhaps the largest was the 50,000-strong Millions March in New York. The leadership role played by a new generation of activists is inspiring and points the way to a New Civil Rights Movement in formation.
The strength and energy of the widespread mobilizations forced some liberal politicians, like New York City Mayor de Blasio, to voice concern about police violence and promise better training and accountability. Even a few conservative figures, like Nancy Grace, Bill O’Reilly and George W. Bush, expressed disagreement with the grand jury in the Garner decision. Reactionaries have pulled out the stops in their effort to discredit the movement and paint it as anti-police and as advocating violence.
A “Blue Lives Matter” demonstration in New York City drew some 400 police and supporters, as well as a large counter-demonstration.
It is in this context that Ismaaiyl Brinsley, age 28, allegedly shot and killed two NYPD officers while they sat in their patrol car. This was after Brinsley had critically wounded his ex-girlfriend and then posted threats against cops on social media. Brinsley allegedly committed suicide shortly after killing the cops.
Right-wing politicians and cop union officials leapt on these murders, blaming the Black Lives Matter movement and liberal politicians for the murders. The appropriately named head of the NYPD cop union, Pat Lynch, said Mayor Bill de Blasio’s hands “are literally dripping with our blood” and declared that the NYPD was in a “state of war.” The ultraright has heaped blame for the killing on de Blasio and Obama as well as blaming protesters for creating the environment that legitimized violence against the police. Both Obama and de Blasio (a supposed progressive) have called for the movement to put a halt to demonstrations. The movement is being demonized and democratic rights endangered as cops gear up to attack the protest movement. On Tuesday, December 23, a defiant march by more than 800 New Yorkers stood up to the intimidation of the cops and de Blasio.
What really created the environment in which these cop killings occurred? Police kill an unarmed Black person every 28 hours. These killings are rarely punished in a court of law. Often, cops are cleared after a cursory investigation. This is in the larger context of the mass incarceration of Black youth and the roll-back of the gains of the Civil Right Movement that these protests have occurred. As voting rights are attacked and Black workers suffer disproportionate levels of unemployment, a fightback is inevitable.
The “colorblind” myth of the US under Obama is a lie and exposed for all to see. The movement against police repression has been mostly nonviolent in character. Whatever rioting that has taken place is a clear response to decades of state violence and the systematic oppression of Black people. If there is violence, it is clearly a case of “chickens coming home to roost,” as Malcolm X said after the assassination of John F. Kennedy.
The movement must not stop. Now is the time to step up the mobilizations — both in defense of Black lives and in defense of democratic rights. Our right to protest does not stop because racist police or liberal politicians tell us to stand down.