On Saturday, a lone gunman with a history of violence, Ismaaiyl Brinsley, shot dead two New York City policemen. Before he did so, he proclaimed on his Instagram page that the killings were revenge for the choking to death of Eric Garner by the NYPD. After he shot the policemen, Brinsley killed himself at a nearby subway station.
Brinsley seems to have been a mentally ill person, someone who had, earlier in the day, also attacked his partner. He was not acting on behalf of any political organization or movement. He acted alone, and violently. Unfortunately none of these facts seem to matter in the aftermath of the killings. Irresponsible and incompetent journalists are reporting hearsay that some cheered on hearing the news of the policemen’s shooting, and yet others are writing that Brinsley had tenuous connections with shadowy violent groups.
Most unsurprisingly of all, the worst reaction of all has come from the NYPD itself. Stewing in a deadly soup of resentment and self-pity over the years, it has come out swinging recklessly, threatening a coup d’etat of sorts, and declaring war against the the city and the people it polices. Pat Lynch, the head of the Policemen’s Benevolent Association, proclaimed:
The mayor’s hands are literally dripping with our blood because of his words, actions and policies, and we have, for the first time in a number of years, become a ‘wartime’ police department. We will act accordingly. Absolutely NO enforcement action in the form of arrests and or summonses is to be taken unless absolutely necessary and an individual MUST be placed under arrest. These are precautions that were taken in the 1970’s when Police Officers were ambushed and executed on a regular basis.”
There is no comparison between the stray killing of two policemen by a violent criminal and the peaceful protests that have been prompted by the relentless killings of citizens by the police. This elementary fact is clearly of no import to the NYPD, convinced as it is of its martyrdom, its saintliness, its eternal rectitude. If it wants to make the lives of policemen on duty safer, it should begin by changing its crude and violent policing methods. Threatening a coup d’etat and a quasi-strike won’t help. It won’t stop the ‘Fuck the Police’ chants that bothers them so much. It merely makes an already dangerous organization even more threatening.
Among my reactions to the news of his actions was the sinking feeling Brinsley had done incalculable damage to the protest movement currently underway; there was no doubt the protests would be blamed for the killings and sure enough, they were.
Today, New York police department commissioner Bill Bratton said:
[I]t’s quite apparent, quite obvious that the targeting [of] these two police officers was a direct spin-off of this issue of these demonstrations.
And then, New York City’s Mayor Bill De Blasio made matters much worse by asking protesters to cease and desist:
It’s time for everyone to put aside political debates, put aside protests, put aside all of the things that we will talk about in due time. That can be for another day.
To paraphrase what Neo said to Agent Smith, when offered the opportunity to “bring a known terrorist to justice”, let me just say the following to Mayor De Blasio and Commissioner Bratton:
Well, that sounds like a pretty good deal. But I think I may have a better one. How about I give you the finger and you give us the protests.