Police Violence Prompts Vigilante Retaliation

Caitlin McLaren - 3T Chemical
Posted on: July 18, 2016

July has been a tragic month for racial violence in America. In Baton Rouge, Louisiana on July 5, an unarmed black man named Alton Sterling was shot by the police at point blank range; his death was recorded by bystanders and the video caused outrage all over the country. The very next day, a black family was pulled over by the police for a broken tail light in Falcon Heights, Minnesota; when the father, Fernando Castile, informed the police officer that he was legally carrying a licensed weapon, the police officer fatally shot him in front of his girlfriend and four-year-old daughter. His girlfriend, Diamond Reynolds, live-streamed the incident; she was handcuffed by the police afterwards, although she had committed no crime.

These two incidents sparked renewed protests all over the country; activists from the anti-police brutality group Black Lives Matter protested peacefully in many cities around the country. The protest in Dallas on July 7 was also peaceful at the beginning, with police and protesters treating one another respectfully. However, at about 9:00 P.M., shots rang out around El Centro College, initially wounding three police officers. The shooter made his way into one of the college buildings, shooting more police officers along the way. The building was evacuated and a two-hour standoff began, but negotiations with the shooter failed and at about 2:30 A.M. a police bomb disposal robot carrying a small amount of C4 was deployed and police detonated the explosive, killing the shooter.

The shooter was identified afterwards as Micah Xavier Johnson, an army veteran who had been discharged under unclear circumstances in 2014; his family and friends suggest that he was suffering from PTSD. Johnson was reportedly interested in black nationalism and harboured deep distrust and hatred towards police officers. He had briefly been a member of the New Black Panther Party several years before, but had been expelled for bad behaviour and violent rhetoric. For these reasons, he was reportedly persona non grata in the Black Lives Matter movement, which holds to nonviolent principles.

When Johnson’s house was searched, numerous weapons were discovered, as well as body armour and bomb-making materials, suggesting that he had been planning such an attack for a long time. His violence was directed almost exclusively towards police officers; five officers were killed and nine more wounded; two civilians were also injured. The names of the deceased were Lorne Ahrens, Michael Krol, Michael Smith, Brent Thompson, and Patrick Zamarripa. The latter three were also former members of the armed forces.

The killings shocked the entire country, drawing condemnation from all sides. President Obama called the attack “despicable” and a “tremendous tragedy”; furthermore, he attributed it to “racial hatred”. Leaders in the Black Lives Matter movement denounced the killings as well. Some parties criticized the movement, arguing that it is creating an anti-police atmosphere that leads to acts of violence; however, the movement, including the Dallas branch, vows to continue, saying that while the killings were tragic, police violence, especially against the black community, is a systemic issue that needs to be eliminated.

Whatever one’s opinion on the solution to these problems, there is a deep rift between the police and the black community, and the body count is only growing. The deaths of Alton Sterling, Fernando Castile, and these five police officers are all symptoms of this disease, and it is in everyone’s best interests to resolve it as soon and as peacefully as possible.