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Black Lives Matter Didn’t Kill the Police in Dallas

Black Lives Matter Didn’t Kill the Police in Dallas: LAURA BUCKMAN / Stringer

LAURA BUCKMAN / Stringer

Back in 2011 one Jared Loughner fired his gun and killed six people in Tucson, injuring several more, including Rep. Gabby Giffords. In the aftermath of the tragedy there was the usual horrified search for a reason why.

Some people struck upon the idea that the blame lay with anti-government rhetoric, which was on a reported rise since the election of President Obama. Worse still was Sarah Palin using gun language to talk about winning seats back for Republicans with a graphic that had targets over various Congressional districts. Find that talk a little overwrought or the metaphor distasteful, fine. Blame Palin for somehow fueling Loughner’s crimes, long before anyone had even ascertained a trace of motive? And his motive being a mentally unhinged hodgepodge of ideas? Absurd. Yet many on the left desperately tried to force a connection between Palin’s words and Loughner’s actions. And they were correctly called out for it.

That brings us to the sniper killings in Dallas. An orderly protest of the police killings of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge and Philando Castile in Minnesota turned into a massacre against police last night.

The suspect was one Micah Xavier Johnson, 25, an Army reservist who reportedly served one tour in Afghanistan.

Early this morning police used a bomb disposal robot to kill Johnson when he continued to exchange fire with them. Excluding Johnson, 11 people were injured, and five killed–all of the deceased were police officers. That appears to have been Johnson’s goal. He wanted to kill police, and he wanted to kill white police–taking out as many as he could before they took him out. It remains unclear as to whether he acted alone or not. Last night it sounded like there were many other suspects, but most cases when more than one gunman are reported turn out to be false, so we’ll have to see.

What we do know already is that the right has forgotten a lot in the past five years. Too many conservatives (though #notallconservatives) now suggest that the decentralized movement known as Black Lives Matter can commit murder. BLM was accused of causing previous violence based on the actions of a few, and now is being blamed for the murderous actions of what looks like one.

Every critique of police actions, or outrage over what appears to be unjust shootings, or every bit of media coverage of these newsworthy events, is somehow a catalyst for violence.

The name #BlackLivesMatter was coined by three women on Twitter–three activists. Instead of trending and dying as popular hashtags do, it escaped into the larger world and became a movement beyond the control of its originators. It does not have leaders, though BLM does have a few prominent cheerleaders such as journalist Shaun King, and activist DeRay McKesson.There is no “official” membership, though there’s a website run by the original activists, and some local chapters that people can join.

As with all movements that take on a life of their own, there are some tactics and rhetoric that provoke disagreement, such as the more intrusive interruptions of Sen. Bernie Sanders and various New Yorkers’ brunches earlier in the year. Though there are shared concerns, not everyone is marching in lockstep or planning everything together. Nearly everyone is peaceful. When they commit civil disobedience, as many do, they do so without violence or hate.

A minority of protesters in Black Lives Matter have chanted things like “pigs in a blanket/fry ‘em like bacon.” This is not illegal speech. It’s a nasty thing to yell, and that’s all it is. It has no reflection on anyone’s actual desire or intention for violence. It’s posturing. Words do not kill people. And in American law, the legal definition of incitement or fighting words is blessedly quite narrow.

President Obama, Hillary Clinton, or any other politician’s concern over police misconduct pulled no triggers either. Hell, the right has of late been interested in police reform. Why not blame Sen. Rand Paul or Gov. Rick Perry for violence against police, since they have correctly critiqued the criminal justice system?

If the right is as concerned about individuals and individual freedom as they claim, it needs to understand something. Protests movements don’t kill people. Rhetoric doesn’t kill people. Killers kill, and they are the ones who should be blamed for their actions.


Lucy Steigerwald is a contributing editor for Antiwar.com. Twitter: @lucystag.

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