On July 7th, 2016 a gunman named Micah Johnson fired on police officers using a sniper rifle during a peaceful protest in Dallas, Texas, killing five officers. The protest was centered around the recent acts of police brutality involving Alton Sterling in Louisiana and Philando Castile in Minnesota.
An earlier version of a CNN article had this astonishing quote from an officer who downplayed Johnson’s explicitly stated motives, despite admitting Johnson was lucid at the time, “We can’t get into the head of a person that would do something like this. We negotiated with this person that seemed lucid during the negotiation. He wanted to kill officers, and he expressed killing white people, he expressed killing white officers, he expressed anger for Black Lives Matter. None of that makes sense,”
Notably the police were able to end this conflict by the use of a robot carrying a c4 explosive. CNN reports that it was a, “1-pound C4 plastic explosive plus “Det” cord”. This was not military grade equipment but rather similar to the, “…small explosive charges that they use for breaches…”.
Criticism for this maneuver came from all sides including Rick Nelson, a fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and a former counterterrorism official on the National Security Council remarking that, “The further we remove the officer from the use of force and the consequences that come with it, the easier it becomes to use that tactic,” “It’s what we have done with drones in warfare. … In warfare, your object is to kill … Law enforcement has a different mission.”
But given how many people police have killed in 2015 and 2016, is this really true?
In 2015 police fatally shot nearly 1000 people (armed and unarmed), according to the Washington Post. More recently, multiple writers from the Washington Post reported that fatal shootings were up in the first six months of 2016 from last year. Those numbers were 465 to 491 with the Post also reporting that blacks are shot 2.5 times more than whites.
One of the heartening things is that these fatal encounters are increasingly being recorded which has led to more prosecutions of police, more public protest and more education about white supremacy in this society. After all, this society was built on white supremacy and given the current discriminatory regime of law enforcement, interpretation and sentencing, it seems to continue.
And while more prosecution could be seen as a good thing, it’s still unlikely to strike at the root of these issues. Local courts and the police in those same locales are on friendly terms and other reformist ideas such as body cameras and mandatory reporting either seem to be ignored or conveniently worked around.
On the other hand, violence isn’t going to be how this fight for justice will be won either and it’s unlikely that Johnson’s moves will do anything but incite further violence on future protesters. But then it isn’t as if police would have committed no violence against protesters in the future had this shooter not enacted violence.
One thing is for sure, the more cops kill, the more they are going to be killed.
That isn’t a statement of personal preference or a statement to incite violence but rather a recognition of JFK’s quote that when you make peaceful revolution impossible, you make violent revolution inevitable.
Or, as the anarchist Voltairine de Cleyre put it in Our Present Attitude, which was a response to the assassination of President McKinley,” Now, in times like these, wild outbursts of desperation must be expected. It is not the business of Anarchists to preach wild and foolish acts, – acts of violence. For, truly, Anarchism has nothing in common with violence, and can never come about save through the conquest of men’s minds. But when some desperate and life-denied victim of the present system does strike back at it, by violence, it is not our business to heap infamies upon his name, but to explain him as we explain others, whether our enemies or our friends, as the fated fruit of the existing “order.”
Under a police state, the desperate act desperately and the more police kill, the truer they’ll discover this is.