This Saturday, two police officers – Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos – were ambushed and murdered in Brooklyn. Their killer, Ismaaiyl Brinsley, had a history of mental illness, at least one past suicide attempt, and an extensive rap sheet. Before killing Liu and Ramos, he shot his ex-girlfriend in Maryland and took a bus to New York, proclaiming on Instagram that “I’m Putting Wings On Pigs Today They Take 1 Of Ours…… Let’s Take 2 of Theirs #ShootThePolice.” After killing Liu and Ramos, Brinsley fled to into a subway station and shot himself.
This June, two police officers – Alyn Beck and Igor Soldo – were ambushed and murdered in Las Vegas. Their killers, Jerad and Amanda Miller, committed these killings as an explicit act of political revolution. Jerad had had his own run-ins with law enforcement and developed a conspiracy-theory-heavy, anti-government ideology that led him to join the militia and “States Rights” activists at Cliven Bundy’s ranch during the rancher’s standoff with law enforcement. Miller was supposedly kicked off the Bundy ranch for encouraging others to shoot Bureau of Land Management personnel. Whatever the case, he and his wife, who both viewed all cops as “pigs” and frequently likened them to Nazis, eventually decided to take violent action on their own. And so they shot Beck and Soldo at point-blank range in a pizza joint and draped their bodies in a Gadsden flag, shouting “This is the start of a revolution!” Jerad’s last post on Social Media the night before read: “The dawn of a new day. May all our coming sacrifices be worth it.” After killing Beck and Soldo, the Millers ended up dead by their own hands in a local Walmart, where they also killed an armed civilian who had attempted to stop them.
What Jerad and Amanda Miller did was terrorism, full stop. It was linked, both in terms of ideological motivation and a history of actual group affiliations to a spectacular incident of armed resistance to law enforcement. But after the Millers killed Beck and Soldo, authorities didn’t descend upon the Bundy ranch, nor did they call for the remaining armed activists there to disband or even disarm. The Las Vegas Police Union and PBA certainly didn’t accuse US Senator Dean Heller, who had previously called those at the Bundy Ranch “patriots,” of “having blood on his hands.”
What Ismaaiyl Brinsley did, on the other hand, is more ambiguous. His multi-state rampage began with a loved one and then ended in killing two cops; his beliefs are only beginning to become clear, and it’s uncertain if he ever participated in any of numerous recent protests against police brutality, whether in Georgia or Maryland or New York or elsewhere. A hallmark of those protests, incidentally, is that they have been overwhelmingly nonviolent and have involved acts of civil disobedience where participants allowed themselves to be arrested – not faced off cops with their own guns drawn. And yet, after Brinsley tragically murdered these two NYPD officers, not only have the police and media blamed nonviolent protestors and the #BlackLivesMatter movement for those killings, but they’ve pressured New York City’s mayor into asking peaceful protestors – protestors rightly infuriated by police brutality, but who also denounce violence against police – to stop protesting.
What’s wrong with this picture?