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Don't Blame Protesters for the Murder of Two New York Cops

AP Photo/John Minchillo

The murder of two New York City policemen on Saturday has outraged everyone including Al Sharpton to Michael Brown's family, who stressed that they never advocated violence in calling for law-enforcement reform. But some police unions and politicians have instead pointed fingers at civil-rights protesters and the city's mayor, Bill de Blasio.

The loudest response came from Patrick Lynch, the president of the New York City Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association. “There’s blood on many hands tonight," he said. "Those that incited violence on the streets under the guise of protest that tried to tear down what NYPD officers did every day.”

New York City police are understandably angry about losing two of their own. But it's ludicrous to claim that New York's peaceful protesters and its mayor, who had pleaded for calm after the Garner decision, are somehow responsible for the rampage of one, perhaps mentally unstable killer.

Republican Senator Lindsey Graham understands that—more or less. “I blame the shooter and nobody else,” he said Sunday on CBS. He doesn't agree with de Blasio and Attorney General Eric Holder—"the tone they're setting around the rhetoric regarding the cops incites crazy people," he said, "but I blame the shooter."

De Blasio infuriated police earlier this month when, after a grand jury decided not to indict a cop in the chokehold death of Eric Garner, he sympathized with Garner's family and noted that he tells his biracial son to “take special care” around police. Even before the double-murder this weekend, the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association was passing out forms to rank-and-file officers that requested de Blasio not attend police funerals due to his “consistent refusal to show police officers the support and respect they deserve.” On Saturday night, officers turned their backs to de Blasio when he arrived at a Brooklyn hospital where the two officers—Wenjian Liu, 32, and Rafael Ramos, 40—were taken.

But there is a yawning gap between the kind of reforms demanded by de Blasio and the protesters and open hostility to police. 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 reformingvictimizes minorities across the country. While police claim they’ve been unfairly vilified by protesters over isolated incidents, Lynch and others are guilty of doing the same by denouncing the protesters for the actions of one hateful man, Ismaaiyl Brinsley.  

The cops who claim Garner protesters have Liu and Ramos's blood on their hands also seem to have forgotten what their job entails. Police don't just enforce the law and keep the public safe, but also protect every single citizen's fundamental rights—including the right of free speech. Lynch, the PBA president, and others who agree with him would do well to remember the oath every New York City officer gives when he accepts the job: