“Anti-Police Brutality” Does Not Mean “Anti-Police” » VSB

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“Anti-Police Brutality” Does Not Mean “Anti-Police”

Spencer Platt/Getty Images


According to published news reports, hours before Ismaaiyl Brinsley shot and killed two NYPD officers, he shot his ex-girlfriend, Shaneka Thompson, in Baltimore. He also stole her iPhone. After shooting her, he boarded a Bolt Bus to New York City, and updated his Instagram account from her phone, vowing to kill cops. Minutes after following through on his threats, he killed himself. In the years before Ismaaiyl Brinsley’s name became nationally known, he’d been arrested at least 19 times, imprisoned for two years, and he admitted to having mental health issues.

In a rush to assign blame and politicize these murders, some very prominent people (a police union chief, an ex-Governor, etc) have blamed Brinsley’s act on Barack Obama, Eric Holder, Bill de Blasio, and the hundreds of thousands who have recently protested how our communities are policed. This is, to put it bluntly, some dumb-ass fucking shit. It is also predictable. American history is filled with examples of “things a Black person has done” being blamed on “things Black people are doing.” Crimes that have nothing to do with hip-hop are blamed on hip-hop. If a Black kid gets teased for enunciating /a/ sounds, Black people are anti-education. And now, criticism of the police is apparently responsible for the act of an obviously disturbed and violent man.

Ismaaiyla Brinsley was an anomaly. A tragedy whose history and erratic behavior suggest that, if he didn’t receive some form of help, he was going to kill somebody. Those somebodies happened to be police officers. His Instagram rants read less like a sane person with a vendetta against cops than a deranged man who could have very easily carried the same animus against postal workers or flight attendants or the Milwaukee Bucks. Treating him as anything more, as an example of something bigger, suggests that this movement is “anti-police” instead of “anti-police brutality” or “anti-racial profiling” or “anti-institutional racism” or “anti feeling scared of instead of protected by the police.”

And, as someone who has four family members, three high school classmates, and several friends and acquaintances who are in some capacity of law enforcement, it’s insulting.

I want my friends and family who happen to be cops to be safe. I want them to be able to go home at night. I want them to raise their families, retire, and collect their well-earned pensions. I pray for them. I thank them when I get the opportunity, and I appreciate them for doing one of the most difficult jobs you can do. What people like George Pataki and Patrick Lynch and the members of the “I Can Breathe” gang have either failed to realize or realize but don’t want to articulate is that “wanting cops to be able to do their jobs” and “wanting cops to be better at their jobs” are not conflicting concepts. You can protest bad policing while also wanting good police to be protected. You can hate what Darren Wilson did while loving your boy for putting his life on the line every day. You can mourn the death of Eric Garner — and denounce who killed him — while mourning the deaths of Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos — and denouncing who killed them. You can cry for Michael Brown’s parents while shedding tears for Rafael Ramos’ son.

While flipping through the channels last weekend, I heard someone (I forgot who) suggest the protesters want a “war” on police. They had it backwards. The reason why millions are protesting, sitting in, organizing, demonstrating, speaking, writing, reporting, and boycotting is because they believe the police are at war with them, and we want this war to end.

Damon Young

Damon Young is the editor-in-chief of VSB. He is also a columnist for GQ.com And he's working on a book of essays to be published by Ecco (HarperCollins). Damon is busy. He lives in Pittsburgh, and he really likes pancakes. Reach him at damon@verysmartbrothas.com. Or don't. Whatever.

  • CrayolaGirl


  • Pinks

    But this azzhole Lynch has said the NYPD is now at war. It’s damn sure not with each other – meaning it’s with civilians, which has me terrified. My BIL is a detective in Brooklyn, and while I thank him for his service (and the DBA card that’s gotten me out of a few speeding tickets), I can also denounce the f*ckery that his fellow boys in blue are enacting in our communities every damn day.

    Claiming that DeBlasio, Obama and Holder are to blame for the murder of these cops is not only irresponsible and ridiculous, but DANGEROUS more importantly. I’m sickened by the (mostly white) people in my social media feed siding with these idiot claims and circulating that stupid meme suggesting that the officers weren’t “actively resisting arrest or charging at someone,” you know, because those are plausible reasons for being killed, and therefore deserve to still be alive.

    I’m sad for their families, but a part of me can’t help but feel like this is the tip of the iceberg for chickens to begin coming home to roost. I don’t think Garner’s and Brown’s deaths were directly related to this shooting, but how long do some of these pigs think they can get away with killing people in cold blood without anger bubbling over? How long can we be profiled just for walking in areas where we pay taxes and send our children to school to better themselves without someone somewhere deciding it’s been too damn long suffering through the same bull? These were senseless and terrible killings, but so are many of those black families have endured hundreds of times over, and I’m disgusted that some people are just now deciding it’s time to be upset because the lives of men with badges were taken. Does my son’s/father’s/brother’s/husband’s blood not flow as red as theirs, or is “blue” more important than theirs?

    I’m literally terrified to be a NYC resident right now.

    • MostlyMax

      I’m doubly scared to be a Bed Stuy resident right now

      • Pinks

        I can imagine. My hubby went out for his boy’s birthday in the Stuy the same night it happened (I thought he’d be on LI, closer to where we live) and when I heard that, I gave him the only straight face and “Nucca, is you crazy?”

        One of friends just moved off the block where it happened and he’s not even going back to get the rest of his belongings. Sh!t is about to get so real.

        • MostlyMax

          It’s gonna be hot as hell for a minute. Even the corner boys ghosted. My husband has to pass a police station on the way to the gym and my paranoia levels are usually high just on GP but now they are off the charts.

  • menajeanmaehightower

    The heads of these police labor unions are on some fuckery.

  • It’s clear that it’s simply a war of words and images (cops turning their backs to De Blasio was so blatantly propagandized that you’d think you were watching a remake of Triumph of the Will) between the mayor and the police union. It’s one of the reasons why I am completely against the idea of “public sector unions”: it’s hard to say you’re “serving” a community, and at the same time you have a union that’s primary function is to consistently soak money out of it.

    I don’t expect much to come out of this outside of De Blasio realizing that he has a police force that doesn’t mind explicitly showing the power that it has attained over the years due to the Guilliani legacy: that treating minorities like occupied citizens, and denying them their constitutional rights of privacy is okay, as long as it “reduces crime.” If he can’t find the power and the leverage to put these people in place, he’s going to trigger something unprecedented in NYC.

    • MostlyMax

      And also let’s not pretend that this rhetoric isn’t going to full lynch mob territory conveniently enough in time for contract negotiations with Mayor DiBlasio & the NYPD

  • There’s politicizing and then there’s politicizing by putting people’s lives on the line. Declaring that the NYPD is now a “wartime” police is meant to scare the ish out of NYC residents. That’s all. I mean, the killer is dead, so who, exactly, is Patrick Lynch declaring war on?

    Also, the more I read about him, the more I learn that he’s an effing opportunist. There’s this from the NYT archives: http://www.nytimes.com/2004/08/19/nyregion/19labor.html?smid=tw-share.

    I was also amused to learn of this piece in the archive: http://www.nytimes.com/1997/02/17/nyregion/despite-police-union-troubles-officers-save-anger-for-giuliani.html?smid=tw-share. Giuliani?! The same em effer who’s out here blaming Obama and Holder and de Blasio was himself on the receiving end of a letter asking that he not show up to officers’ funerals. Now he’s over acting brand new. :/

    (Shoutout to the dude on Twitter who shared the links!)

  • Toya Dixon

    “COINTELPRO represents the state’s strategy to prevent
    movements and communities from overturning white supremacy and creating racial
    justice. COINTELPRO is both a formal program of the FBI and a term frequently
    used to describe a conspiracy among government agencies—local, state, and
    federal—to destroy movements for self-determination and liberation for Black,
    Brown, Asian, and Indigenous struggles, as well as mount an institutionalized
    attack against allies of these movements and other progressive organizations.”

    History is the greatest teacher next to experience. This disturbed individual is clearly being used as a way to justify police ramping up their security tactics on protesters and to discredit the movement. Propaganda is so real and it’s even sadder that people are buying into it. Just the way all of this is being framed is showing how black lives are devalued. Why is a cops life more relevant than an unarmed suspect? I’m saddened by all needless loss of life, but lots of people seem to think that if you commit any type of crime or even look threatening (i.e. being of color) then your death can be justified. I’m really trying not to get to a point where I have a disdain for white people, but man it’s really hard…I can’t be depressed about it because I don’t have it as bad as some others, but I definitely realize that I am doing a disservice to future generations by not speaking up about it. It’s just emotionally exausting. I think one of my activist friends said it best, black people are living with PTSD from experienceing trauma on top of trauma.

    • donfons

      We absolutely are! Google: “black people shorter life” and look at the myriad results that point out this fact (in less colorful terms).

  • Michael Fleury

    It is so frustrating to watch the defenders of the police state conflate this into a justification for silencing the protest to an issue that has existed since Reconstruction. I don’t believe Brinsley woke up Saturday morning determined to kill NYPD cops–there’s plenty in Baltimore if he just wanted to kill cops. I believe he shot his girlfriend, nearly killing her, then realizing he’s going to die or go back to prison. So he then decided to make his miserable life “significant” by tying his violence to the “cause” as he saw it. I believe the instagram posts came AFTER he shot his girlfriend, and I think he was just trying to distract from his collapsing world.

    Amazingly, when Eric Frein shot the two Penn. state troopers–killing one–no one on the right/conservative cabal was calling for Hannity, Limbaugh, Bryan Fischer, or Pat Robertson to tone down their support for Cliven Bundy and his anti-gov’t and anti-police crusade. Yet these disingenuous provocateurs try to tie the Pres., Sharpton, Blasio, and Holder to this cop-killing? Hmmm, seems a little convenient.

    • What’s even more disturbing is that I have younger male and female cousins that share in Brinsley’s thinking and are #teamkillkops. Unfortunately, when one black person does something crazy like this we’re all lumped in together. This act of violence negated most if not all the protesting over the past few months and increased the tension between black people and cops. Brinsley gave the NYPD the ammo it needed to turn this into a political war and shift the problem onto everyone else (see: black people, the protesters, Obama, Mayor de Blasio and his son’s afro, Bolt bus companies, gas prices, ISIS, or [insert ridiculous scapegoat here]), instead of examining the REAL issue at hand.

      • I had to check a childhood friend who posted the story with “Boston gotta catch up” (also worth noting last night cops were fired upon at random last night, I know he wasn’t involved but was art enough to take that dumb sh t down

        • I had to check my cousin last night who commented on a fb post on this very topic… I told him although he was free to share his opinion, you can’t do that on my page. It’s not worth it to get caught up in his mess.

      • MeriXmas

        lol. I tried to have this heart to heart with my parents about all of this. I wanted them to tell me what the appropriate reaction was to a systemic threat to my life. I wondered what was supposed to happen if we found ourselves in the 2015 Jim Crow era. They looked at me with so much remembrance in their eyes, like their experiences in the south back in the day were now being manifested in their child, but they weren’t ready to have such a conversation with me. They just wanted me to look at the life they worked so hard to give me and know that it’s all going to be okay. I’m horrified by these events and I feel threatened because my blackness is now associated with hunting season. Younger people have a lot of conflicting things to sort through but condemning them for how they express it just seems off. They need something constructive to contribute to that suits that energy in them. It’s something to talk about and let them be honest without telling them their feelings and thoughts are bad. Help them process it.

        • My nephew tells me a lot about the crazy situations he has been in during his young life. He is an 18-year-old boy. Its heartbreaking.

          It isn’t about condemning their thoughts because it is important to create a safe space for them when they choose to share their feelings, troubles and fears. But, this is a serious situation right here and oftentimes teens are comfortable with posting anything they want on fb, without thinking about consequences or repercussions. Now that the NYPD is actively searching Facebook pages and Instragram accounts for threats and hashtags that allude to killing cops, teens must be guided on what is appropriate to post on social media. I want the very best for my nephew and I would hate to see him get into a sticky situation with cops because he chose to post something silly.

          • MeriXmas

            It sounded like you were telling them it was bad to think that way and that they should just be quiet. Telling them how to appropriately express such things is good though.

            • No, no! Not at all! I could never do that. I was a teenager once (suprisingly lol) and I absolutely hated when adults would tell me I’m wrong instead of listening to what I had to say.

              • MeriXmas

                lol. It always makes me uncomfortable when people do that because how else are we gonna get through things unless people hear each other out? I was glad that my parents let me vent the way they did and even though I teeter back and forth, I genuinely want them to tell me what is and isn’t appropriate. Talking and connecting keeps people sane, especially younger people who are having all this heaped on them and don’t really know what to do with it all or which way to go.

        • Medium Meech

          If I may ask, what is your picture of? It’s been bothering me not knowing…

          • MeriXmas

            I’ll never tell. I like having the element of mystery whilst keeping my word.

            • Medium Meech

              Didn’t think you would follow through. No face though.

              • MeriXmas

                Nope! But I’ll at least let you see the full picture.

                • Medium Meech

                  Very interesting…

                • LMNOP

                  Is this Sahel? All cryptic and shape-shifty…
                  This appears to be a cleavage-heavy picture of a female dementor with an unbuttoned shirt.

                  • MeridianBurst

                    No. Sahel wanted an avi so I told him to wait for the last post of the year. I don’t like posting identifying information on the e-streets so my avi was veiled. Meech wanted to know what it was of so I showed him. My name changed because the whole time I’ve been posting on VSB, I do so as “Meridian” but I just enter random login information. In order to have an avi I had to make an actual disqus account and Meridian was already take. I was going to do ‘Liddle Blue Riding Hood’ but no one would’ve known it was me, so I did MeriXmas. Now it’s MeridianBurst because Christmas season will end eventually.

                    • LMNOP

                      Thanks for clearing that up, I was confused there.
                      Also, nice bewbs, and well played, maam.

        • Mercy8_om

          Your feelings and fears matter greatly. Please be careful!

  • Somewhere in Rohan

    The Thin Blue Line,NYC residents are up for interesting times. Especially with those hercules units that i have heard so much about.This is what happens when a police force is militarized,they will answer to nobody

  • MeriXmas

    The first time I heard of this I thought, so he shot a Black woman, an Asian man, a Hispanic man, and a Black man because…f*ck those racist white police. The NYPD as an institution is obviously corrupt so who’s to say those cops weren’t partakers in terrorizing black people. I can’t say I don’t condone violence against the police and I can’t say I feel remorse over their loss. It was only a matter of time and I feel like that was a point of no return. It was an action that reflected on all of us and everyone who supports us, so, this country is about to experience such an extraordinary period of conflict. He did that because he had nothing to lose. Just like Kajieme Powell had nothing lose when he reached his breaking point with what was happening and the duress he had to live under. People like that are the first to snap. People who don’t have friends, jobs, family, hobbies, sh*t they value which keeps their mind frame from dipping into that kind of reaction. A LOT of people feel like that though.

    You could go on Twitter and Facebook throughout this whole ordeal and see how over it people were and how little f*cks they had for the police. People were watching Ferguson after the no indictment heralding the moves against the police which included burning city/police property and shootings. It’s pretty common to desire the downfall of those who oppress, terrorize, hunt, and murder black people even to the point where you cheer when you see the uprising caused by a no-indictment. Cops were shot at/injured in Ferguson and people were like WHELP. I think a lot of people feel that way but most of us have to much lose to act on those feelings. Personally, I don’t know how I feel about it. It bothers me that these two men were sitting in their car and got murdered. The violence towards them was misguided but I can’t say that I care. Senseless murder is something I’m all too familiar with as a black person so you’ll have to forgive me if I’m desensitized to gun violence.

    All in all, I think I feel like The Game about this. He saw the pics of those cops in the shirts and said, “Well I guess y’all can’t breathe either”.

    Genuine question: Considering everything we’ve been through in our history in this country, am I supposed to care any more than that?

    • “Personally, I don’t know how I feel about it. It bothers me that these two men were sitting in their car and got murdered. The violence towards them was misguided but I can’t say that I care.”

      Yeah, I don’t think I care about the NYPD, collectively, but I do care about the two cops that were murdered the Saturday before Christmas. Unfortunately they will not be able to spend the holidays with their family and loved ones, and the families are left to plan a funeral and burial. And the same goes for the families of Eric Garner, Mike Brown, and Tamir Rice.

      I don’t wish that on anyone.

      • MeriXmas

        That’s the part that always trips me up. The NYPD is a hit squad against black people so considering what they do to us, I don’t feel bad when things happen to them. I don’t humanize these two cops because I remember that ‘Happy Thanksgiving’ photo from Ferguson, and how the people there had to struggle through that holiday. It cancels out the softness of my heart. The right thing to say is how this is a tragedy, but I’m just perfectly indifferent. I don’t wish it on anyone but it’s like….how many people have WE mourned? We weren’t even allowed to grieve their lives and I’m supposed to have sympathy for a collective group of people who make us experience these tragedies as a norm of their job? I don’t want to be that cold but it’s not like THEY cared when it happened to us.

  • Aicha7

    They know damn good and well they aren’t especially in danger of these anti-police brutality protesters, and that they’re playing a game with all this drama about De Blasio and turning their backs and talking about how it’s war time now.

    Those two white anti-federal government wackjobs in Vegas blew away two cops EATING LUNCH in Vegas and yet somehow that wasn’t turned into anything meaningful about states rights white conservatives in the media. That white conservative anti-government survivalist shot a cop to death and then was on the loose living in the damn woods in Pennsylvania this year for some six odd weeks and that story wasn’t turned into something “meaningful” about conservative prepper nutcases.

    The NYPD knows this. They are playing the media and unfortunately most of the television media is based in NY and are eating this shit up. The whole nation in grief and mourning, unbelievable, unheard of, have the protests gone too far, it’s fuckin ridic. It’s make believe.

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