A declaration by the New York Police Department Union that it will engage in "wartime policing" in response to Saturday's killing of two city law enforcement officers has raised alarm among protesters and civil rights advocates, who ask: "Have we learned nothing?"
A statement released Saturday by the New York Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association—the union for the NYPD—reads, "The mayor’s hands are literally dripping with our blood because of his words actions and policies and we have, for the first time in a number of years, become a 'wartime' police department. We will act accordingly."
Steven Thrasher, writing for the Guardian, responds, "Wartime? These are the marching orders to the 35,000 armed members of the biggest police department in the United States. This is the message now sent to protesters around the nation who have been finding novel and peaceful forms of expression to resist oppression—who have been protesting in reaction to police violence, not causing it."
Meanwhile, Pat Lynch, president of the PBA, made the unverified claim at a press conference on Saturday that ongoing protests and mobilizations are to blame for the killing of the police officers, stating, "There is blood on many hands tonight. Those that incited violence on the street under the guise of protest, that tried to tear down what New York City police officers did every day. We tried to warn it must not go on, it shouldn't be tolerated."
But Ferguson Action, a broad, Ferguson, Missouri-based coalition behind mass organized response to police killings and violence, declared in a statement, "It is irresponsible to draw connections between this movement and the actions of a troubled man who took the lives of these officers and attempted to take the life of his ex-partner, before ultimately taking his own," referring to reports that the gunman shot a woman in Maryland prior to the incident in New York.
"Today’s events are a tragedy in their own right," the statement continued. "To conflate them with the brave activism of millions of people across the country is nothing short of cheap political punditry."
New York-based Communities United for Police Reform agrees. The campaign stated, "As the details of today’s shootings continue to come to light, there are people who would seek to exploit this tragedy and use it to condemn the growing national movement to end police violence and discriminatory policing. Attempts to link today’s tragic events with a movement that holds justice, dignity and respect for all as its core values are cheap political punditry, and dangerous in their divisiveness."
#BlackLivesMatter, which describes itself as "a national grassroots and social media driven movement at the heart of much of the recent mobilizations against police violence," said in a statement, "Our hearts grieve with New York, a community already reeling from the losses of Eric Garner, Ramarley Graham, Kimani Gray, Akai Gurley, Islan Nettles and many more. An eye for an eye is not our vision of justice, and we who have taken to the streets seeking justice and liberation know that we need deep transformation to correct the larger institutional problems of racial profiling, abuse, and violence."
The statement continues:
At the heart of our movement work is a deep and profound love for our people, and we are rooted in the belief that Black people in the U.S. must reassert our right to live be well in a country where our lives have been deemed valueless. Together, we champion a complete transformation of the ways we see and relate to one another.
Now is our moment to advance a dramatic overhaul of policing practices. Now is the time to direct more resources into community mental health services and practices. Now is a moment for empathy and deep listening. Now is the time to end violence against women and trans people. Now is our moment to come together to end state violence.
"Our movement, grown from the love for our people and for all people, will continue to advance our vision of justice for all of us. Let’s hold each other close as we work together to end violence in our communities—once and for all.