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Cop Killers Serve No Cause

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Cop Killers Serve No Cause

Police officers attend a vigil after a fatal shooting of Baton Rouge policemen, at Saint John the Baptist Church in Zachary, Louisiana, July 17, 2016. REUTERS/Jeffrey Dubinsky

How can anyone ever explain this to Mason?

He’s only 4 months old, so that moment still lies years in the future. Still, at some point, too soon, he will ask the inevitable questions, and someone will have to tell him how his dad was shot to death for being a police officer in Baton Rouge.

Montrell Jackson was not the only cop killed Sunday, nor the only one who left a child behind. Officer Matthew Gerald and Sheriff’s Deputy Brad Garafolo also had kids. And it’s likely that in killing five police officers earlier this month, a sniper in Dallas robbed multiple children of their fathers, too.

So there are a lot of people having painful discussions with a lot of kids just now. But Mason’s father was the only one of these eight dead cops with the maddening and paradoxical distinction of being an African-American man killed in protest of police violence against African-American people. He left a Facebook post that gave a glimpse into how frustrating it was, living on both sides of that line — being both black and a cop and therefore, doubly distrusted.

“I swear to God,” he wrote, “I love this city but I wonder if this city loves me. In uniform I get nasty hateful looks and out of uniform some consider me a threat.”

“Please,” he pleaded, “don’t let hate infect your heart.”

Nine days later, he was dead.

Counting two New York City policemen murdered in 2014, this makes at least 10 cops randomly killed in the last two years by people ostensibly fighting police brutality. But those madmen could hardly be bigger traitors to that cause.

One is reminded of something Martin Luther King said the night before his assassination, when he explained “the problem with a little violence.” Namely, it changes the discussion, makes itself the focus. King had been protesting on behalf of striking sanitation workers in Memphis when unruly young people turned his march into a riot. “Now … we’ve got to march again,” he said, “in order to put the issue where it is supposed to be.”

These cop killers leave us a similar dilemma. Instead of discussing the violence of police, we are now required to discuss violence against police and to say the obvious: These killers serve no cause, nor does any cause justify what they did. They are just punk cowards with guns who have changed the subject, thereby giving aid and comfort to those who’d rather not confront the issue in the first place.

But if we don’t, then what? One often hears men like Rudy Giuliani and Bill O’Reilly express contempt for the Black Lives Matter movement of protest and civil disobedience; one is less likely to hear either of them specify what other means of protest they would suggest for people whose concerns about racially biased and extralegal policing have been otherwise ignored for decades by government and media. If not Black Lives Matter, then what? Patient silence? Acceptance of the status quo?

That isn’t going to happen, and the sooner the nation understands this, the sooner it moves forward. Sadly, that move, whenever it comes, will be too late for Mason and dozens of others left newly fatherless, sonless, brotherless, husbandless and bereft. Still, we have to move. The alternative is to remain stuck in this place of incoherence, fear, racial resentment … and rage. Always rage.

But rage doesn’t think, rage doesn’t love, rage doesn’t build, rage doesn’t care. Rage only rends and destroys.

We have to be better than that. We have no choice but to be better than that. We owe it to Mason to be better than that. He deserves a country better than this mad one in which his father died, and life is poured out like water.

Jocelyn Jackson, Montrell’s sister, put it best in an interview with the Washington Post. “It’s getting to the point where no lives matter,” she said.

Leonard Pitts is a columnist for The Miami Herald, 1 Herald Plaza, Miami, Fla., 33132. Readers may contact him via e-mail at lpitts@miamiherald.com.


Photo: Police officers attend a vigil after a fatal shooting of Baton Rouge policemen, at Saint John the Baptist Church in Zachary, Louisiana, July 17, 2016.  REUTERS/Jeffrey Dubinsky

Leonard Pitts Jr.

Leonard Pitts Jr. is a nationally syndicated commentator, journalist, and novelist. Pitts' column for the Miami Herald deals with the intersection between race, politics, and culture, and has won him multiple awards including a Pulitzer Prize in 2004.

The highly regarded novel, Freeman (2009), is his most recent book.

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  1. Dominick Vila July 21, 2016

    I understand the causes for the emergence of Black Lives Matter, and peaceful protests, but killing law enforcement officers cannot be excused, justified, and undermines the legitimacy of the protesters.
    I watched a Bill O’Reilly interview a couple of days ago in which this issue was the topic. The two women being interviewed offered their opinions. At the end of the interview Bill O’Reilly, in his classic pompous and judgmental ways, offered his verdict: cops are being killed because of the lyrics in Ice Cube’s rap music, and were legitimized by President Obama’s decision to invite leaders of the Black Lives Matter to the White House. His conclusion placed the blame for the horrible acts we have been seeing in recent weeks, not on the root cause of the problem, but on those who dare protest and rebel against what has been happening for decades, and on our first African American President for having the audacity to invite African American leaders to the White House. In the minds of some, he killing of cops, regardless of ethnicity, has served as a justification for the police brutality we see so often. Instead of helping, and influencing desperately needed change, it justified the actions of those few officers whose behaviors and lack of humanity was not too dissimilar to those of the shooters in Dallas and Baton Rouge.

  2. AgLander July 21, 2016

    …….yet anarchist leftist groups who are tightly associated with, and financed by billionaire Democrat supporters like George Soros continue to attack and kill cops. Take away the money and these groups will wilt on the vine…….I don’t look for the Democrats to swear off these evil influences, however, because they have become one and the same with these subversive anarchists. They ARE the Democrat party.

    1. FireBaron July 21, 2016

      And your proof is? And I don’t want quotes from Brietbart or Faux News.

    2. Daniel Jones July 21, 2016

      …that being the only time I will ever use all caps in an effort to “shout”, could you please stop being such an idiot? The makers of Robocop didn’t make that moron kill people, and God knows Black Lives Matter never endorsed someone shooting cops.
      In point of fact, the idiotic incitement of violence usually comes from annoyed conservatives, like the Trump advisor that snarled out how Mrs. Clinton needed to be killed by a firing squad.

      1. DEFENDER88 July 24, 2016

        From you:
        “…and God knows Black Lives Matter never endorsed someone shooting cops.”
        I disagree:
        I “Distinctly” recall the Black Lives Matter(BLM) Chant (as they were marching down the street)
        Played over and over 1k times like CNN is prone to do.
        Yeah its “Catchy”, and “Inspiring”, but as, we have seen, it is – Subversive, Ignorant, and Dangerous.
        The Dallas Cop Killer stated he was “inspired” by this rhetoric.
        What? Just the worst Cop killing in US history?
        AND on one of the most “Progressive” Police Depts in the US.
        As they were protecting BLM Protestors, no less.
        And, no doubt, inspired the Baton Rouge Cop Killer also.
        So don’t tell me they (BLM) did not inspire killing Cops.
        Before that I had some sympathy for their grievances.
        Not so much now.
        I now see BLM as a Domestic Terrorist Group – like many others we have.
        Except more active and effective in getting Cops Killed.

        I am now wondering if I need to look at All Blacks and some Whites as supporting this murder.

        AND – the “HANDS UP” “DONT SHOOT” chant is based on a Lie.
        (That was later shown to not happen.) re Michael Brown, in Ferguson.

      2. kep July 24, 2016

        BS. BLM have promoted the killing of cops and, for that matter, all whites. I heard one of BLM leaders say as much in an interview. Amazing that the Emperor invites them into the White House, but then again, he seems to support all terrorists.

  3. Donna7687 July 21, 2016

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  4. Oddworld July 21, 2016

    The Baton Rouge shooting had nothing to do with “Black Lives Matter”. It isn’t paradoxical at all that a black cop was shot dead in that incident, in fact he was an intended target because he was a cop. Race had nothing to do with it this time. The shooter may have been black but he was also a supporter of the “Sovereign Citizens Movement”. In other words, he held similar views with people like Timothy
    Mcveigh and Terry Nichols. This group is a bigger threat to this nation than ISIS or any other Islamic terror group
    and they’re home grown.


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