Anthony Zurcher reports on the opportunistic “blame the protests” rhetoric over the murders of the two New York cops.
At the centre of the storm is New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, who has been heralded as a populist torch-bearer since his election in November 2013.
The mayor had previously expressed solidarity with protesters who had taken to the streets after a police officer was not indicted for the death of Eric Garner.
And he had publicly wondered if his biracial son was safe from police – rhetoric some are now arguing helped to create an environment that encourages violence against police.
Yes, and? Is protesting the killing of Eric Garner and the non-indictment of his killers so obviously terrible? Not to me.
Patrick Lynch of the PBA said what he said. Pataki said what he said. The cops turned their backs on De Blasio.
On Sunday night some police officers turned their backs on the mayor in silent protest as he walked to a press conference. It was a gesture that Mike Lupica of the New York Daily News says shows the gravity of the crisis.
“The mayor has to understand that if he does not step up and step forward now and admit mistakes he has made with the NYPD because of his obsession with playing to his base, then the image of those cops turning their backs on him will be a part of his permanent record,” he writes.
Well the image of Eric Garner lying on the pavement will be a part of the NYPD’s permanent record, too. Who is more in the wrong? It’s not clear to me that it’s De Blasio.
Mr de Blasio “lit the fuse” that led to the shootings, writes the New York Post’s Michael Goodwin.
“Again and again, he depicted the great and gallant NYPD as an occupying army of racist brutes,” he writes.
Many of them may be terrific, but some of them clearly are not. We are allowed to say that. The police have a job to do; they’re not our bosses or our monarchs or our priests; we’re not required to pay them unconditional homage. We are allowed to say they did a bad thing in any particular case.
A mayor is either with the police or against them, he says. “That fact is nowhere to be found in the progressive playbook, which sees everything through race and class,” he continues. “But it is how the real world works.”
Former New York City Police Commissioner Howard Safir, writing for Time magazine, says there currently exists “an atmosphere of permissiveness and anti-police rhetoric unlike any that I have seen in 45 years in law enforcement”.
He warns that if police aren’t supported it could lead to a return to a time in New York City when “gangs controlled the streets” and car theft and murders were rampant.
I tell you this crap is fascist. They don’t seem to realize it, but it is. This hero-worship of the people with guns is the essence of fascism, even more so than racism.
Now to hear from the other point of view.
“There is a yawning gap between the kind of reforms demanded by De Blasio and the protesters, and open hostility to police,” writes the New Republic’s Claire Groden. “Hundreds of deaths caused by police officers have gone unreported in federal statistics since 2007. Overly aggressive policing – such as the stop-and-frisk policies that de Blasio made a point of reforming – victimises minorities across the country.”
Activist and former basketball star Kareem Abdul-Jabaar calls the recent rhetoric a cynical ploy.
“This shrill cry of ‘policism’ (a form of reverse racism) by Pataki and the police unions is a hollow and false whine born of financial self-interest (unions) or party politics (Republican Pataki besmirching Democrat De Blasio) rather than social justice,” he writes in Time magazine. “These tragic murders now become a bargaining chip in whatever contract negotiations or political aspirations they have.”
Will Bunch of the Philadelphia Daily News says people like Mr Pataki and the police union leaders are “the usual array of bottom feeders” looking to turn the police murders into political advantage.
Mr de Blasio’s “biggest crime”, he says, “apparently was telling his black son to be extra sure to do what the officer says when he’s stopped”.
The police are not in charge of us. They are empowered to enforce the law where it needs enforcing, but that does not make them in charge of us. We are allowed to say they got it wrong, especially when they did in fact get it wrong.