On Saturday afternoon, 28 year-old Ismaaiyl Brinsley shot and killed NYPD Officers Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos as they sat in their patrol car in Brooklyn, in what Brinsley said was an act of revenge for the killings of Eric Garner and Michael Brown. Brinsley had warned of his impending attack on Instagram, and shortly after carrying it out, took his own life as police closed in on him at a subway platform. The killings quickly became a rallying point for politicians and officials who looked to blame the killings on efforts to hold police accountable for the conduct and policies that have resulted in fractured relations with the black community.
President Obama, currently vacationing in Hawaii, released a statement late Saturday night, condemning the killings (via email from The White House):
I unconditionally condemn today's murder of two police officers in New York City. Two brave men won't be going home to their loved ones tonight, and for that, there is no justification. The officers who serve and protect our communities risk their own safety for ours every single day - and they deserve our respect and gratitude every single day. Tonight, I ask people to reject violence and words that harm, and turn to words that heal - prayer, patient dialogue, and sympathy for the friends and family of the fallen.
On Sunday morning, the President called New York City Police Commissioner William Bratton as well, to express condolences for the slain officers. From White House spokesman Eric Schultz:
In their conversation, the President reiterated his call for the American people to reject violence and words that harm, and turn to words that heal – prayer, patient dialogue, and sympathy for the friends and family of the fallen. The President told Commissioner Bratton that his staff would continue to monitor the situation in New York, and that Administration officials would be working with leaders across the country to echo the same message. The President also offered the Commissioner his full support for any possible assistance in the days and weeks ahead.
Significantly, the President also called Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey, who is co-chair of the President's recently-formed (Dec. 18) Task Force on 21st Century Policing to "express his support for Commissioner Ramsey's continued public calls condemning this violence" and, according to the White House, "asked Commissioner Ramsey to use the Task Force to further this message and explore meaningful ways to engage law enforcement officials from across the nation."
That task force, created just days ago, was formed because "Recent events in Ferguson, Staten Island, Cleveland, and around the country have highlighted the importance of strong, collaborative relationships between local police and the communities they protect," and "trust between law enforcement agencies and the people they protect and serve is essential to the stability of our communities, the integrity of our criminal justice system, and the safe and effective delivery of policing services," according to the task force announcement. With one act, in one day, Brinsley has succeeded in inserting his crime into the ledger at the highest levels of policy-making.
The crime has also sparked furious backlash against the #ShootThePolice hashtag that Brinsley used in his Instagram warnings, which caused the topic to trend worldwide over the weekend. Originally, the phrase was used to promote the filming of police misconduct, in the worst bit of social media double-entendre since the Catholic Church's effort to promote young practitioners of single-digit puppetry with their #FingerKids hashtag. Rapper Duckwrth® promoted the hashtag in his "Super Soaker" video in September, which contained the lyric "I got a rocket launcher aimin' at you, I got a Super-Soaker gun and a silver twenty-two."
It was a silver semiautomatic Taurus handgun that Brinsley used in his murders.
Duckwrth® has faced the backklash without a trace of backing down:
The effort to pin a murderous act on one side or the other of a political argument is nothing new, but in this case, it appears to be succeeding at a record pace. It shouldn't need to be said, but apparently, it does: It is not "anti-cop" to want police not to choke citizens to death.