One year ago, a bowl-headed young misfit named Dylann Roof walked into Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, S.C., and shot nine people in prayer, with the hope of sparking a war with race as a baseline.
The families of the dead weren’t tempted by his bait. But last night, somebody was, and Dylann’s dream inched a little bit closer to becoming our nightmare.
In the hours and days ahead, we’ll sort out the political implications. Security at national conventions in Cleveland and Philadelphia will be ratcheted up.
In Florida today, the platform committee of the Democratic National Convention was to meet. One of the hotter topics was to be police violence against black men, as demanded by Black Lives Matter. Language will have to be adjusted.
The Republican National Convention, which begins in 10 days, is likely to become a law-and-order gathering.
And U.S. Rep. John Lewis’ protests in Washington against America’s gun culture just took on new meaning. This country will have to decide if we – cops, public, everybody — will spend the next century as hostages to anyone with a grudge and the ammunition to call attention to it. Even good guys with guns can be soft targets.
But all that will wait. In the meantime, a few facts. From the Dallas Morning News:
Two snipers shot and killed four Dallas police officers and a DART officer Thursday night during a protest downtown.
Six other officers were wounded in a coordinated attack during the demonstration against recent shootings of black men by police in Louisiana and Minnesota.
A man who exchanged gunfire with police in the El Centro College garage was reported dead shortly before 3 a.m.
Dallas Police Chief David Brown said before that suspect was killed, he expressed anger at the killing of black men, and was out to kill whites and white police officers. Said Brown: “We don’t feel much support most days. Let’s not make today be most days.”
In the days ahead, some apologists — not many, but a few — will take the line that these murdered officers are casualties of war.
They’ll say this act was the culmination of countless provocations and frustrations; they’ll try to frame some kind of context around this chaos. They’ll say, “It’s terrible, but …”
No. It’s just terrible. It’s sickening, cowardly. It furthers no cause; it accomplishes nothing but misery and grief. It’s violence for the deranged love of violence itself, disguised beneath a political veneer.
To employ a Texas colloquialism, it’s chickens**t with a gun.
Here’s precisely where we don’t need to go. From the Washington Post:
“3 Dallas cops killed, 7 wounded,” former Rep. Joe Walsh, an Illinois Republican, wrote just before midnight, in a tweet that is no longer on his profile: “This is now war. Watch out Obama. Watch out black lives matter punks. Real America is coming after you.”
From the Associated Press:
President Barack Obama said Friday that America is “horrified” by what appears to be a planned sniper shooting targeting police officers in Dallas, and he said there is no justification for the violence.
In a brief statement to reporters, Obama said the investigation into the shooting continues but “what we do know is there has been a vicious, calculated and despicable attack on law enforcement.”
Obama called the shooters motives “twisted” and vowed that “justice will be done.”
“There’s no possible justification for these kinds of attacks or any violence against law enforcement,” Obama said, noting that he had spoken with Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings and offered his support and condolences.
Obama spoke from Warsaw, Poland, where he is meeting with NATO and European Union leaders. Obama arrived early Friday shortly before snipers opened fire on police officers, killing five officers and injuring six others during protests over two recent fatal police shootings of black men.
Immediately after landing in Warsaw, and before the shootings, Obama had expressed solidarity with protesters. He has acknowledged becoming out of the touch with the public mood during past foreign travels and seemed determined to let that happen this week. He aired his frustration with what he said were racial disparities in the criminal justice system.
But he also seemed attuned to the potential for backlash directed at police. He argued that there was no contradiction between supporting law enforcement and working to see that biases in the justice system are rooted out.