Al Sharpton has been everywhere these last few months, organizing marches through his National Action Network to protest the deaths of black men at the hands of white police officers. Everywhere he goes, violence follows as protesters chanting “No Justice, No Peace” set fires and loot stores.
In New York City just a week ago, Sharpton led a march in which protesters assaulted two NYPD officers and blocked traffic on the Brooklyn Bridge. Their chant then: “What do we want? Dead cops!” The reverend stood by and smiled.
Meanwhile, NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio blasted city police right after a grand jury’s decision not to charge officers in the death of 6-foot-4, 400-pound Eric Garner, who resisted police trying to arrest him. De Blasio said at a press conference that his wife and teenage son are not “safe from the very people they want to have faith in as their protectors.”
And even President Obama has stoked racial discord. “Too many young men of color feel targeted by law enforcement — guilty of walking while black or driving while black, judged by stereotypes that fuel fear and resentment and hopelessness,” he said in September at the annual Congressional Black Caucus Foundation dinner.
After a grand jury’s decision in Ferguson, Mo., not to charge Ofc. Darren Wilson in the death of 6-foot-5, 290-pound Michael Brown — who numerous witnesses testified tried to grab the officer’s gun and charged him before being shot to death — Obama weighed in with equivocal, morally ambivalent words: “The fact is, in too many parts of this country, a deep distrust exists between law enforcement and communities of color. Some of this is the result of the legacy of racial discrimination in this country.”
Then on Saturday, two NYPD officers were gunned down in cold blood. The shooter, Ismaaiyl Brinsley, had sought revenge for the Garner and Brown deaths: On his Instagram account, he wrote: “They take 1 of ours, let’s take 2 of theirs.”
Law enforcement officials in New York, past and present, reacted swiftly to news of the murders.
Former New York City Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik told Newsmax that the killings were brought about by “de Blasio, Sharpton and all those who encouraged this anti-cop, racist mentality all have blood on their hands,” he said. “They have blood on their hands.”
“There’s blood on many hands tonight,” Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association President Patrick Lynch said. “Those that incited violence on the streets under the guise of protest that tried to tear down what NYPD officers did every day. We tried to warn it must not go on, it cannot be tolerated.”
“That blood on the hands starts at City Hall in the office of the mayor. Those who allowed this to happen will be held accountable,” he said.
The Sergeants Benevolent Association tweeted: “The blood of 2 executed police officers is on the hands of Mayor de Blasio. May God bless their families and may they rest in peace.”
Retired NYPD detective Harry Houck called out Sharpton and others, saying the demonstrations to protest the deaths of Garner and Brown have “all be predicated on lies.” He went further than others, saying “I guess Al Sharpton got what he wanted.”
Obama, who had made comments almost immediately after the grand jury decisions in the Brown and Garner cases, did not weigh in on the deaths of the NYC officers until after midnight on the East Coast. He is on a 17-day vacation in Hawaii and was on the golf course when the shootings occurred. He didn’t release a statement until after finishing his round of golf.
His tone was far different than his previous remarks. “The officers who serve and protect our communities risk their own safety for ours every single day – and they deserve our respect and gratitude every single day. Tonight, I ask people to reject violence and words that harm, and turn to words that heal – prayer, patient dialogue, and sympathy for the friends and family of the fallen,” Obama said.
De Blasio has also changed his tone swiftly, saying “Our city is in mourning. Our hearts are heavy. It is an attack on all of us.” But police union leaders and officers were seen turning their backs to the mayor at the hospital where the two officers were pronounced dead.
Former Gov. George Pataki called out the mayor, saying the officers’ deaths were a “predictable outcome of divisive anti-cop rhetoric of #ericholder & #mayordiblasio.” (Attorney General Eric Holder, for his part, said the shootings illustrate the importance of “forging closer bonds between officers and the communities they serve.”)
And the very reverend Sharpton scrambled to fend off the damage to his operation, penning a column for the New York Daily News.
Our city is hurting, we are hurting. Today we mourn the loss of two NYPD officers who were gunned down in a vicious act of senseless violence.
As soon as news broke of the tragedy in Brooklyn, I spoke with both the families of Eric Garner and Michael Brown. And let me be perfectly clear, we are all outraged and saddened by the deaths of these police officers. Any use of the names of Eric Garner and Michael Brown, in connection with any violence or killing of police, is reprehensible and against the pursuit of justice in both cases.
At every rally and every march, we have stressed nonviolence and peaceful protests.
I delivered the eulogy at Michael Brown’s funeral and Eric Garner’s funeral and denounced anyone engaging in violence. We have even been criticized at National Action Network, NAN, for not allowing certain rhetoric/chants calling for violence, and we would abruptly denounce it at all of our gatherings. Violence never has and never will have a place in the true fight for equality and justice.
Both the Brown and Garner families send their condolences to the families of these brave police officers who were in our community serving citizens that were in need of protection. Only those who have suffered the senseless loss of a loved one understand that pain. The city must come together and protect both police and citizens. We should not be choosing between funerals; we should be choosing justice and fairness for all.
In the past, NAN has worked with former Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly and current Commissioner Bill Bratton on anti-violence and gun-buyback programs. We reserve the right to question police when they are wrong, but violence to answer violence is inexcusable and unacceptable.
That is why NAN and other groups have been stressing that we must make the system work and not match those acts that we feel represent a broken system. It will only lead to more grief and will not lead to justice.
The Garner and Brown families and I have always stressed that we do not believe that all police are bad, nor do we believe that most police are bad. We must unite and work to heal our city and this nation.
Mahatma Gandhi once said: ‘An eye for [an] eye only ends up making the whole world blind.’ Let those who can see help lead us forward together.