The shooting of two NYPD cops over the weekend sparked debate across the political spectrum and internet – especially after the suspect made it abundantly clear he was out to kill random cops to avenge Eric Garner and Mike Brown.
The NYPD was quick to blame Bill DeBlasio for fanning the flames of the protests. DeBlasio had previously met with the Garner protesters and angered police when he claimed that he and his wife stayed up at night worrying his biracial son would be killed by police:
So I’ve had to worry over the years. Chirlane’s had to worry. Is Dante safe each night? There are so many families in this city who feel that each and every night. Is my child safe? And not just from some of the painful realities—crime and violence in some of our neighborhoods—but is safe from the very people they want to have faith in as their protectors.
So it was no surprise when the NYPD literally turned their backs on DeBlasio in a dramatic statement that the police believed DeBlasio shared some blame for the cop killings. Meanwhile, Al Sharpton (who somehow always occupies the B-plot in all things race related) tried to make it clear that the protesters did not condone the shooting:
I am outraged at the killing of 2 police officers in Brooklyn. That is why we stress non violence as the only way to fight for justice.
— Reverend Al Sharpton (@TheRevAl) December 20, 2014
There is certainly irony in the fact that the protesters are now the ones on the defensive saying this one incident is not indicative of their movement as a whole. For months, they have taken two isolated incidents, one a senseless killing, and another where numerous black witnesses testified that deadly force was warranted, and extrapolated those anecdotes to claim that an “epidemic” of young black men were being murdered by police officers.
This past weekend the protesters took to the King of Prussia mall to stage a “die in” and also shut down parts of the Mall of America on its busiest day of the year – despite the mall’s pleas that they go elsewhere and respect its private property. While the images of the protests are powerful, I’m not sure anyone can find a connection between police brutality and the Mall of America other than the fact that while the protesters care, they don’t care enough to protest outdoors in Minnesota in December. Those marching for change do not want to be cold as they instagram pictures of themselves fighting the injustice that occurred a thousand miles away three weeks ago.
While it is natural to wonder who at the mall is more responsible for the death of Eric Garner – the Jamba Juice employee trying to make extra cash before the holiday or the old woman trying to pick up a Precious Moments doll for her granddaughter – both have now received the message from these brave (and warm) food court protesters.
But it is telling that the Mall of America shooting occurred just before the New York police were killed. Now that the protesters are also being blamed for deaths, cries for caution and context are being made. Suddenly it is wrong to judge an entire group from a single incident. We should instead look to the entire group and realize that their intentions are mostly good, and the perpetrators are rogues – not representatives.
This is all true, but the protesters should have realized this months ago. To declare an epidemic and cry that the justice system is broken because of one wrongful decision is no different than declaring that the protests are violent because one of them decided to assassinate two police officers in cold blood.
We should start ignoring the anecdotes and start looking at probability. It’s unfortunate, but our world is filled with a significant number of crazy people, and an even more significant number of dumb people. And when you have hundreds of millions of people, some of them are going to do dumb and violent things.
So while it was not the fault of DeBlasio or the protesters that these cops were slain, it was a predictable result. When you involve millions of people in protests across the country, chances are you’re going to catch the eye of some mentally unstable people who are going to take actions into their own hands. And when politicians like DeBlasio acknowledge the protesters and give credence to their views, that only increases the likelihood that the protests will incite a gunman to act.
The purpose of the protests is to create conflict, and where there is enough conflict the violence of humanity will emerge. While the above video is titled “shocking,” no one should be shocked someone drove their car through a sea of people when seas of people existed in intersections throughout the country. It was a deplorable act, and the driver should be prosecuted – but we should all be smart enough to expect that if traffic across the United States is jammed up with human bodies, somewhere someone is going to get mad and hit the accelerator.
And that should really be the lasting lesson regarding Ferguson and Eric Garner. There will always be a few bad apples, but we need to just accept that, shake our heads, and move on. Because when the good apples keep creating conflict and doing things to rile everyone up – that’s when the bad apples come out and spoil the whole bunch.