Demonstrations to denounce the fatal shooting of two black men by police officers this week exploded across the nation in what the group Black Lives Matters called a Weekend of Rage.
Following the surfacing of videos showing two African-American men, Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, who were shot by police in Louisiana and Minnesota, respectively, five Dallas police officers were gunned down and seven others wounded during a demonstration Thursday evening. But neither that tragedy nor growing tensions between the police and blacks was enough to quiet the protests.
“This has been a very painful week for the African American community,” said Jeanelle Auston, who organized an event at Fuller Theological Seminary’s Pasadena, California, campus. “The back-to-back killings of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge and Philando Castile in Minnesota by police officers have torn hearts across the nation.”
El Paso Police Chief Greg Allen, who is African-American, was tightly controlled but clearly furious at a press conference where he stated, “Black Lives Matter, as far as I’m concerned, is a radical hate group; and for that purpose alone, I think the leadership of this country needs to look at little bit harder at that particular group. The consequences of what we saw in Dallas is due to their efforts.”
Protests took place in many major cities, including Atlanta, New York, Rochester, Phoenix, Baltimore, Baton Rouge, Chicago, Denver, Detroit, Nashville, San Francisco, Seattle, St. Paul and Washington, D.C.
The largest demonstration appeared to be in downtown Atlanta, where an estimated 2,000 protesters chanted, waved signs demanding justice and blocked part of Interstate 75/85 in a tense standoff with police.
Mayor Kasim Reed first tweeted, “”Today we have had less than ten people arrested during what has been a peaceful protest. We urge anyone protesting not to enter the highway.” Later he followed with a warning to protesters: “If you enter the highway, you endanger your own life, the lives of innocent motorists & the lives of our officers. We are better than that.”
The tweets were ignored. Footage from local news stations showed the crowd facing off with dozens of police vehicles that were stopped on a local interstate highway.
In Baltimore, about 200 people gathered in protest to march from McKeldin Square to the Baltimore police headquarters. Four people were arrested after some members of the group failed to comply with orders to move out of the street.
The FBI issued a riot alert in Louisiana. Judicial Watch reports the alert is dated July 7 and included disturbing images from social media, including one depicting a restrained uniformed police officer getting his throat slashed by a masked individual. Other social media images called for purging and killing all cops in Baton Rouge on July 9 and starting a riot by the courthouse in Shreveport. One social media post says, “It don’t matter what color you are.” Another says, “Must kill every police!!!!”
About 300 protesters in Baton Rouge started off peacefully, but descended into chaos after several protesters hurled plastic bottles of water and cups of ice at police. Many officers were attired in riot gear, and people could be heard chanting obscenities at the police.
Breitbart reports the New Black Panther Party (NBPP) plans to be in town on Sunday to protest the police shooting of Alton Sterling, according to Minister of Education James Evans Muhammad.
Several protesters told Breitbart News they were unhappy to hear the New Black Panthers – which has made headlines for its incendiary uncompromising black liberation rhetoric – were coming to town.
Demonstrations in Phoenix turned violent when protesters threw rocks and other objects at law enforcement officers during an anti-police brutality rally Friday night. Agitators shouted “We should shoot you!” to officers.
An estimated 1,000 participants chanted: “Black lives matter” and “Hands up, don’t shoot” as they marched. Officers escorting the march weren’t dressed in riot gear.
The violence also caused massive transit shutdowns, particularly on Interstate 10. One of the civil rights leaders that helped stage the march, Rev. Jarrett Maupin, acknowledged the route of the march was changed to shut down Interstate 10. The Arizona Department of Transportation tweeted, “CLOSED: SR 51 SB to I-10 WB ramp is closed due to law-enforcement activity,” which prompted someone to respond, “Law enforcement activity? Do you mean THUG activity?”
Six people were injured and three were arrested, and police used pepper spray to bring the crowd under control.
Protests occurred in both Rochester and New York City.
A Black Lives Matter protest took over Grand Central Station Friday night leading to disruptions and travel delays, just one day after thousands of activists went on a march throughout midtown Manhattan, taking over Fifth Avenue and Times Square.
In Rochester, some protesters sat in the street chanting “Black lives, black lives” while others stood in front of riot gear-clad police. Police Chief Michael Ciminelli said at a press conference that 74 arrests were made for disorderly conduct and two charges of resisting arrest. There were no injuries.
Law enforcement on high alert
Nationwide, law enforcement officers are on high alert. In many locations they are being ordered to partner up for assignments, wear bulletproof vests, and not to respond to calls alone.
The Washington Post noted police commanders nationwide began pondering Friday not only the significance of the tragedy in Dallas, but whether they need to reconsider how they do their jobs in a more highly charged environment when viral video and angry rhetoric can quickly ignite anti-police sentiment.
The NYPD’s chief of department James O’Neill sent an internal memo stating, “Effective immediately and until further notice, all uniform members of service are to be assigned in pairs,” adding “There will be no solo assignments citywide.”
Washington Police Chief Cathy L. Lanier said she gave the order to partner up at about midnight, hours after the attack in Dallas killed five officers and wounded seven others. She conceded, “Looking at the type of attack that happened in Dallas, a two-man car, a four-man car, a 10-man car, isn’t going to make much of a difference. But it makes the officers feel much safer.”
These orders were echoed in places like Boston, Las Vegas, St. Louis and other urban areas. St Louis Police Chief Sam Dotson gave orders to his officers, adding, “Although locally we are not experiencing any civil unrest, this decision is precautionary and is to maximize the safety of officers and our community.”
Meanwhile Politico reports Attorney General Loretta Lynch encouraged protesters not to allow the “heinous violence” that occurred in Dallas to silence their “important” voices.
“I want you to know that your voice is important,” Lynch during a news conference on Friday at the Justice Department. “Do not be discouraged by those who would use your lawful actions as cover for their heinous violence. We will continue to safeguard your constitutional rights and to work with you in the difficult mission of building a better nation and a brighter future.”
Lynch stressed that she is “deeply grateful” to law enforcement’s commitment to difficult and dangerous work to keep America safe but vowed that the Justice Department would do all it can to help. And she urged peaceful protesters not to give up.
Additionally, Hillary Clinton used a CNN interview on Friday to completely embrace the Democrats’ claim that white people and cops must change to help reduce the number of African-Americans killed in tense exchanges with cops.
“I will call for white people, like myself, to put ourselves in the shoes of those African-American families who fear every time their children go somewhere, who have to have ‘The Talk,’ about, you now, how to really protect themselves [from police], when they’re the ones who should be expecting protection from encounters with police,” Clinton told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer.
“I’m going to be talking to white people, we’re the ones who have to start listening to the legitimate cries coming from our African-American fellow citizens,” she said. “We’ve got to figure out what is happening when routine traffic stops, when routine arrests, escalate into killings … Clearly, there seems to be a terrible disconnect between many police departments and officers and the people they have sworn to protect.”
Breitbart notes how Clinton suggested people who disagree with her agenda are racists. “There is so much more to be done … we can’t be engaging in hateful rhetoric or incitement of violence, we need to be bringing people together … we need more love and kindness.”
To win in November, Clinton needs a high turnout of African-American voters.