It’s terrible that police officers were murdered in Dallas — that was an unforgivable act of inexcusable violence. But now the police are lashing out, and it’s going to make everything worse. DeRay McKesson was arrested in Baton Rouge: he was “flagged” as a troublemaker for his role as a spokesperson and as someone who was photographing events, and tackled and thrown into jail.

Police, I beg you: stop. You are doing yourselves no favors by denying the legitimacy of the protests, and any sympathy for the genuine difficulty of doing your job is going to evaporate if you continue to confirm a reputation for brutality.

Also, the visuals are going to simply demolish the case for a valuable service that “protects and serves”. You cannot win against this.

Jonathan Bachman

Jonathan Bachman

I have to ask, who arrived dressed for violence and rioting? Who stands both fearless and with dignity?


  1. mmark says

    PZ – your first comments about the situation since Dallas are to tell the police to stop?

    Do you realize that the police officers killed in Dallas were peacefully protecting a protest of the police department? And then risked their lives to protect the protesters and shuttle them to safety? (That police department, btw, had enacted many of the community policing reforms you and others have called for.) And the Dallas attack has already inspired copycats in other parts of the country. When a British politician gets killed you can’t wait to blame hateful political rhetoric for her murder – but when the shoe is on the other foot you’ve not a word to say about your own rhetoric.

    You had a chance after Dallas to say that you were wrong, that the language you used was offensive and unfairly disparaging of every police officer in America. You had a chance to ask for peace, for cooler heads to prevail. Instead you’re doubling down on your hate: The police have to stop!

    You’re despicable. You are, deliberately or otherwise, inciting your readers to violence against the police. I don’t know if the Dallas shooter was a Pharyngula reader, but it wouldn’t surprise me in the least to find out that he was. I would be willing to guess that half the people reading this comment were nodding their heads in silent approval when they first heard that multiple cops were shot in Dallas, there are comments here in other threads to that effect.

    And you don’t have to ban me, I’m gone. There’s no way in hell I’m going to stick around this place.

  2. Saad says

    mmark, #1

    The centuries old racist rhetoric against black people is to this day causing the regular state-sanctioned murder of black people. That is what PZ and the others criticize. The killings of police and violence of any kind are explicitly condemned here. Sorry. Things just cannot be about white feelings every time.

    You are a racist asshole. Good riddance (hopefully).

  3. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Why do racist assholes like mmark always have to announce their flounce? Why can’t they just disappear into the bandwidth like rational people? /rhetorical.

  4. magistramarla says

    mmark – Wow, just wow. I’m speechless.
    The picture in this post says it all. Since when has it been ok to militarize our police forces?
    I feel that this country needs to take a lesson from Australia and destroy the weapons of war that are in the hands of the citizens – not weapons that are used for hunting, but those weapons that are designed to kill people in war.
    At the same time, we need to insist that police departments must destroy their weapons of war, too. Police need to see themselves as part of a community, not as the soldiers who are sent into a community to police by force.
    Good riddance to mmark – you are part of the problem, not part of the solution.

  5. howdydodat says

    Something horrible happened to the police. Now we aren’t allowed to criticize anything the police do, or else it’s our fault if something horrible happens in the future.

    This kind of willfully stupid reasoning is how people like the Lt. Gov of Texas and his cohorts try to silence justified protest. I’m glad that so far it hasn’t silenced everyone.
    Keep protesting.

  6. Beatrice, an amateur cynic looking for a happy thought says

    These guys look like they are wearing several kilos of equipment more than any riot police I’ve ever seen live. I’m sure that’s not excessive at all.
    Yes, police need to stop. I’m afraid they are going to retaliate instead. There is no serving and no protection in what I’ve been reading about police in US. As someone in another thread noted, they are acting like an occupying army in enemy territory, but without a clear goal beyond terrorizing the natives.

  7. kayden says

    Is mmark for real? The police have to stop killing people for no reason. Period. There was no justification for the killings of Chastille and Sterling by the police in LA or MN. Nor is there any justification for the shootings and killing of police officers in Dallas.

    We can condemn both and work towards an America where Black people aren’t unfairly brutalized by the police and where the police can conduct their duties in relative peace.

    BLM is not going to be silent in the face of continued police oppression. I’m sure that our side understands that the police are not our enemy but we have a duty of calling out the bad apples and seeking better police-community relations.

  8. Ed Seedhouse says

    I think Franklin Roosevelt’s “The only thing we have to fear is – fear itself.” may be particularly relevant today.

    It seems to me that not merely in America (though it seems to be particularly virulent there) but in much of the world Fear (capital F intentional) is being used as a weapon to control whole populations and get them to accept what ordinarily they would never accept.

    Where is today’s Roosevelt?

    Violence begets violence unless and until someone refuses to retaliate. Retaliation only brings more retaliation. Little children do not know that their Dad or Mom was evil and so their deaths were justified, they only know that “They killed my mommy and daddy, and I will not forget”. And so it continues.

    And it will continue until enough people refuse to retaliate. That can only happen when enough people understand that retaliation never succeeds in bringing about peace. I fear there is yet little sign of this happening.

  9. Vivec says

    We’re supposed to overlook decades of murdered black people because police were killed? Mmark, you don’t get to pretend that you think black lives matter just as much as anyone elses when you tell them to stfu at the first sign of anti-cop violence.

  10. says

    My “own rhetoric” here is to unambiguously condemn the murders of police in Dallas. My previous rhetoric on this matter was to call for disarmament, not murder. Here I admire the peaceful demonstrations. Yet mmark thinks I’m endorsing violence?

    Yeah, good riddance, illiterate asshole.

  11. Vivec says

    Also, it’s perfectly possible to think, as I do, that there is no such thing as a good cop as long as these precints will fight to the death to defend the murderers in their ranks, and also think that they should be brought to justice, not killed.

  12. Anri says

    It’s such a pity that mmark didn’t hang around to actually quote all of those terrible things he alleged PZ and the Pharyngulites said.

    I’m sure it would have been a huge list.


  13. Beatrice, an amateur cynic looking for a happy thought says

    Equipped like they are expecting to be attacked by a rhinoceros stampede?

  14. says

    Nope, I can’t see it. Is it some kind of “when you see it…” question?

    I was expecting for that courageous to have something symbolical in her hands, like a flower or something. But this should be the image on all the front pages. This is what it is about.

  15. Golgafrinchan Captain says

    @ Marcus Ranum # 15,

    I could find neither Waldo or Carmen San Diego, so it must be something else.

    A couple of them appear to be holding some sort of canes or lacrosse sticks. One of the sticks looks a bit like a sickle but, even given the current state of affairs, I can’t imagine that would be authorized.

    There’s something sticking up behind them that looks a bit like a basketball backboard.

    One of them is a person of colour.

    C’mon, c’mon, what is it? Is Officer Pepperspray there?

  16. says

    Rich Woods@#18 caught it. The cops must not get out in the sun much.

    (I’ve posted lengthier commentary on this item, and my own take on the picture, over at stderr)

  17. says

    I was expecting for that courageouswoman to have something symbolical in her hands, like a flower or something

    She is holding something appropriately symbolic.
    Looks like a CAMERA

  18. Golgafrinchan Captain says

    It’s probably pointless to respond to mmark since he clearly didn’t read this posting or the previous one specifically condemning the Dallas shooting.

    The cops who are escalating the situation are putting themselves, their colleagues, and the general public in danger.

    Unlike african americans, muslims, or other groups who speak out against violence committed by members of their community (not hard to find, although it’s underreported), police departments actually have the power to control the behaviour of their violent members.

    Much of the current hostility towards police stems from the lack of action taken against problem cops. Like when the Florida K9 unit responded to a mother calling about her suicidal (white) son who was hiding in a garbage can in the garage. They planned to get the dogs to attack him before they even arrived. The dog ripped open his face and back and the boy was not armed and did nothing to provoke them. Their actions were deemed “within policy”. How the fuck are those cops not in jail?

    This isn’t just a cops vs black people problem, but black people are disproportionately on the receiving end of it. Native americans have it even worse.

    This has to stop.

    And just to be clear, I don’t think anybody should be killing anybody. Sniping police, even if it was specifically targetting police who have gotten away with murder, will only make things worse.

  19. says

    Ah yes, a camera would be quite symbolic, indeed.

    Also, while I agree that the cops are all white, I wouldn’t phrase it like “not get out in the sun much”; skin colour has little to do with sun.

  20. says

    I wouldn’t phrase it like “not get out in the sun much”; skin colour has little to do with sun.

    My minor attempt at levity was inappropriate and failed anyway.

  21. unclefrogy says

    their “full body armor” is flat black not gloss white as regular Storm Troopers are and does not have the built in chemical protection-fresh air helmet either.

    uncle frogy

  22. Trickster Goddess says

    A number of reporters also getting arrested now, including an incident in Rochester, NY where a group of reporters from various media outlets were standing together covering protests when police suddenly came over and arrested just two of the reporters — the only African American journalists in the group.


  23. jack16 says

    I don’t want anyone to be killed. Police and colluding politicians have created a situation where entire neighborhoods consider police to be an intrusive danger. The general access to guns of all kinds makes an explosive situation. It is tempting, but unfair, to say that the police make their own bed. The correction of our civil rights failure must come from the top.

  24. says

    @33 jack16:

    It is tempting, but unfair, to say that the police make their own bed.

    I don’t think that’s unfair to say at all. I think it’s completely accurate.

  25. Alex the Pretty Good says

    I think that others will probably also have made the comparison elswhere, but this juxtaposition is almost as iconic as the Tank Man on the Tienanmen Square 27 years ago.

  26. ledasmom says

    Look at her, and then look at the police. They’re all leaning away like they’re afraid of her, and she’s just standing there, just standing and looking calmly at them.
    I wonder what they think they are seeing, to be so afraid of her? What on earth do they find so threatening about this woman?

  27. says

    I grew up in a place not as bad as Compton or Newark, but bad enough. That is, I didn’t see my first murder until I was 14, whereas in Compton, it would have been younger. Still, while cops did fuck people up from time to time, they weren’t militarized the way they are now. They didn’t prowl the streets the way they do in some larger urban settings just looking to start trouble. Did they roust us for nothing? Yes. Did they beat people bloody for nothing. NO. Did they shoot unarmed people who were fleeing a non-violent roust? NO. But they sure do that now.

    They’re combat-equipped because of the 1033 Program in 1997. In May last year, Obama signed a bill limiting and/or prohibiting certain items to be transferred from military hands to our paramilitary force (cops), but there are enough armored vehicles, military helicopters, M-16s, and other weapons of war on the streets to last a long time.

    I live now in the third-highest crime district of a new city, where the cops are armed just this way. In my 35 years here, I’ve seen SWAT called out several times, but so far, it’s been on acceptable emergencies (two were hostage situations with an active shooter; the others, I’m on the fence.). But read this New York Times piece for stats. It’s worse than most people think. The fact is, when gung-ho people have the toys, they use them. http://tinyurl.com/k2wov6v

  28. Lofty says

    Looking at that picture of cops huddled in gangs in protective outfits makes me think that if they were stripped naked and separated they would all burst into tears and curl up into balls like terrified little children. Your country needs a new police force, one that can think in a mature manner.

  29. Jeep-Eep says

    16: Honestly, more and more I suspect ADVENT would be a better substitute for american cops – if nothing else, stun lancers aren’t racist.

    I certainly agree.

  30. Ichthyic says

    You cannot win against this.

    Well, I wish they’d fucking hurry up and lose then, because really… the dynamic of training police to be confrontational and escalatory in conflict has not changed in the US for as long as I can recall.

    I’d say, sadly, that they most certainly can “win” against this, if continuing the same behavior they have for over 100 years at least means “win”.

    The sad thing is, this could all easily change, if the people running police administration in the US finally changed tactics and really DID train their officers for community service, cooperation, and defusion, instead of aggression, intimidation, and confrontation.

    really, being in a country where the police are trained entirely differently has opened my eyes to just how different the results of that can be.

  31. Ichthyic says


    There’s no way in hell I’m going to stick around this place.

    thank fuck. been waiting for that for quite a while now. too long, in fact.

  32. sporkfactory says

    Lofty @38,

    Looking at that picture of cops huddled in gangs in protective outfits makes me think that if they were stripped naked and separated they would all burst into tears and curl up into balls like terrified little children.

    This! It’s long past time we took away the weapons and other militaria from the police including their protective body armor and their ability to roam about in packs. Let’s see how tough they walking around naked and alone.

  33. sporkfactory says

    Lofty @38,

    Looking at that picture of cops huddled in gangs in protective outfits makes me think that if they were stripped naked and separated they would all burst into tears and curl up into balls like terrified little children.

    This! It’s long past time we took away the weapons and other militaria from the police including their protective body armor and their ability to roam about in packs. Let’s see how tough they are walking around naked and alone.

  34. says

    When I first saw that pic, my first thought was that the two cops in front of the woman were being repelled by her psychic forcefield, Marvel Comics-style. That’s a very peculiar stance they’re taking, particularly the one at back. Anyone any idea what happened next?

  35. Menyambal says

    It looks to me like those two cops are running up to the woman to grab her hands, and are in the middle of slowing down and converging. They aren’t going for a full tackle or a knockdown, they are each going for a hand to maybe put cuffs on, or at least immobilize her hands.

    That’s my guess. Last time I tried analyzing something like this, I caught a whole lot of abuse for it.

    I don’t know what happened after. What I do see is two over-armored men hurrying to control a woman.

  36. Trickster Goddess says

    It looks like the cops are decelerating after running toward her with all that heavy gear on them.

  37. Hoosier X says

    We know that Cop Lives Matter because when you kill a cop, you get blown to pieces within hours.

    But if a cop kills a black person, he gets a few weeks of desk duty.

  38. dianne says

    This is only going to get worse. Someone shoots a police officer, the police get scared, which causes them to get more brutal, which leads to more people wanting to shoot the police.

    Who is responsible for breaking this vicious cycle? How about the people who chose to put themselves in this situation, who chose to be identified as one “side” of this fight, who are supposed to be professionals sworn to protect the public? It’s not the responsibility of the public to protect the police, but of the police to protect the public. I can understand that they’re more nervous about doing their job now, after what happened in Dallas. Fine. Surgeons no doubt felt more nervous about doing their job when HIV was first described and it was obvious that it was spread by contact with blood. But they either dealt with that fear or they got a different job. They didn’t insist that they could no longer operate on gay men because it was too dangerous for them*. The point of having police is so that they can protect citizens from crime and not so that citizens can protect the police from all dangers. There is a small risk of being shot. Deal with it or quit.

    Side note for the people who bring up “black on black” crime and ask why people are focusing on police shootings and not crime. Well, what happens when you don’t feel you can call the police if a crime occurs? Criminals run amok. The way to address crime in predominantly black areas is to make sure that no person feels–or is–unsafe calling the police simply because of their skin color.

    *Well, I’m sure some jerks did, but they were not supported by their hospitals and professional associations. They did not start movements saying, “Woe is me, the job I am paid to do puts me at a very slight risk, I’m going to refuse to do it and still demand to be paid.”

  39. dianne says

    WMDKitty@53: That’s possibly the most optimistic spin on this situation that I’ve yet seen. The 1960s were survivable and they led to an at least slightly better place. Maybe the 2010s will too.

  40. Dunc says

    I looked at them and thought RoboCop.

    At least ED-209 would give you 20 seconds warning before shooting you.

  41. davidnangle says

    dianne @ #52, “…the police get scared, which causes them to get more brutal…”

    At some point, maybe already passed, we’re not going to notice their escalation.

    Black people already live with the risk of police violence… but police are now starting to live with fear of civilian violence. (Never mind the whining that went before… Dallas is a real wakeup call.) Police will not put up with living like black people.

  42. dianne says

    NelC@46: My first thought about their posture was that they look scared of her. As, it appears, they should be: she represents the ultimate threat to the police: public exposure of their misbehavior.

  43. Derek Vandivere says

    #48 – I’d been wondering what was going on as well. I guess a quick shutter speed strips the movement away from the image. I have a feeling I’ll be seeing that photo again in next year’s World Press.

    I sure hope the States can get its shit together before things get even worse…

  44. says

    The police poses look weird, but what sells the picture is Evan’s pose: assured, confident, not afraid, despite the proximity of the armoured police.

  45. Bob Foster says

    This looks like our very own Tiananmen Square. Recall the guy in front of the tank? This is how the world sees us.

  46. Gregory Greenwood says

    mykroft @ 31;

    I looked at them and thought RoboCop.

    I know what you mean. I swear, every time I see images of the various US police forces they look more like something drawn directly from some dystopic work of science fiction depicting an oppressive future ruled by evil corporations and their ridiculously over body armoured thugs, and then I realize that most of those works of fiction were written some decades ago, and all that seems to have happened is that reality has gotten around to imitating art.

    The militarization of the police force is totally out of hand. They look like they are going to war all the time, and even taking into account the tragedy in Dallas, I am hard pressed to see what it is about this young woman that necessitates the 21st century equivalent of full plate armour. Besides, all that armour wouldn’t help against the kind of weaponry being used by the attacker at the Dallas atrocity – most body armour won’t stand up well to any kind of high velocity round. This bulky gear is not intended to protect cops from that kind of attack, but rather to augment their personal intimidation factor when it comes to beating up (if not just outright murdering) ordinary, probably unarmed citizens.

    The mat, cinematic-bad-guy-black (I wouldn’t be surprised if that is the actual name of the shade) colouration of the armour only magnifies the impression that these cops came here direct from their other jobs as villainous henchmen extras no. 1 through 50 on the latest big budget Hollywood sci fi action flick.

  47. Gregory Greenwood says

    SC (Salty Current) @ 61;

    Not the Peacekeepers!

    I immediately thought of the Peacekeepers from Farscape (they even have an unhealthy thing for black body armour), but the analogy there is ultimately poor – Farscapes’ Peacekeepers were originally created to genuinely maintain peace and order, and only when their mentors disappeared did things start to go sideways as they tried to do their duty but wound up keeping the peace the only way they know how – through the use and threat of violence. They even had a legitimate reason to be so quick to default to the use of force, since the Scarrens were far worse than they were.

    So, a broken tool trying and failing to do the right thing, rather than an unapologetic implement of racist oppression acting as the muscle for an out of touch and bigoted elite – fiction, even dystopic fiction, once again proves that it has nothing on reality when it comes to villains.

  48. quotetheunquote says

    First thing that struck me about this image was how absurdly massive the two cops appear – they’re wearing so much gear I thought, for sure, there must be three of them. I actually had to count the feet to convince myself that there were only two….

    Ms. Evans’ calm and dignity in the face of this is very impressive.

  49. JohnnieCanuck says

    Per the BBC, it appears the lady’s name is Iesha. That’s a capital i, not an L.