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"Who is being targeted? What kind of violence matters? What kind of victims matter? Who is really, 'at war?'" (Photo: Mark Dixon/flickr/cc)

A ‘War’ on the Police? How About the War on Women and Other Marginalized Groups?

Meghan Murphy

On Saturday, it was widely reported that Ismaaiyl Brinsley “executed” two cops in Brooklyn. The mainstream media and the NYPD immediately tried to link the shooting to the recent protests instigated by the killing of Eric Garner and Mike Brown (and subsequent acquittal of Darren Wilson, the cop who shot Brown to death and the failure to indict the police officer who put Garner in a chokehold, leading to his death).

“Two NYPD cops were executed Saturday after a career criminal drove from Baltimore to Brooklyn to kill police officers in a twisted bid to avenge the deaths of Eric Garner and Michael Brown,” the New York Daily News reported.

“[Police Commissioner Bill] Bratton said they were looking at whether the suspect had attended any rallies or demonstrations.”

Patrick Lynch, the NYPD union president, went so far as to say, “There’s blood on many hands tonight: those that incited violence on the street under the guise of protests, that tried to tear down what New York City police officers did every day… That blood on the hands starts on the steps of City Hall — in the office of the mayor.”

Naturally, the NYPD then used the shooting as an opportunity to claim there was some kind of “war” against the police.

“Bratton said the suspect made very serious ‘anti-police’ statements online but did not get into specifics of the posts.”

“They were, quite simply, assassinated — targeted for their uniform,” he added.

An email circulated among the NYPD states: “… we have, for the first time in a number of years, become a ‘wartime’ police department. We will act accordingly.”

For the first time in years? Ok. Because American cops have long behaved like they’re in some kind of warzone when dealing with political protests… The notion that the NYPD is now (supposedly) forced to behave like a “wartime police department” doesn’t really strike me as new… Have they behaved like peacekeepers in the past?

While the NYPD and American media seem eager to freak out over the deaths of these two cops, using it as an excuse to (as it seems obvious they plan to) engage in and justify even more police violence, they seem less concerned with the ongoing war against women and other minority groups.

What they are clearly less concerned with was that earlier on Saturday, in Baltimore, Brinsley shot his ex-girlfriend in the stomach. The woman, Shaneka Nicole Thompson, survived but remains hospitalized in critical condition.

As Nancy Leong pointed out in an article for Slate, the management of Thompson’s apartment complex reportedly “distributed a letter to other residents stating that her shooting was the result of a ‘domestic dispute’ in order to reassure them that ‘this was a private, isolated incident.'”

So shooting a woman is just a “private, isolated incident,” whereas killing a police officer is a public incident and “an attack on all of us, and everything we hold dear.

That makes sense I guess, since the police are “the public” and everyone else is “no one important, really, just some rando.”

To be clear, those two officers — Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos – did not deserve to die. Their deaths are a tragedy. But to pretend, with all that we know about the ways in which women, people of colour, and other marginalized groups have historically been and continue to be targeted and subjected to violence, that this shooting constitutes some kind of “war” against the police force is incredibly offensive, ignorant, and manipulative.

Why are we still not talking about male violence? Why is there (apparently) no “war” on black people or on Aboriginal people or on women but there is (apparently) a “war” on cops??

Leong points out that three women are murdered by their husbands or boyfriends every day in the US. Is that not a “war?” Is that not a “public” issue??

Black women are assaulted and killed by police officers too, but few are talking about that. Evette Dion writes:

"In black American communities, we are holding our breath, waiting for whoever’s next. There is no guarantee that the next victim will be a black male, but there appears to be a guarantee that the victim will be marginalized or forgotten by the mainstream media if she is a girl or woman of color."

You’ll notice this is, once again, about men shooting other men and women. This is still about male violence.

And, interestingly, men who go on shooting rampages tend to be misogynists.

Leong reports that the man who held 17 people hostage for more than 12 hours in a Lindt chocolate café in Sydney, Man Haron Monis, has an “extensive history of violence against women.” He was, Clementine Ford writes, “out on bail for 2013 charges relating to the murder of his ex-wife,” who he also stalked and threatened, and was charged with more than 40 sexual assault offences allegedly involving seven different women.

But we don’t take violence against women seriously. Over and over again we let violent men off the hook until they do something we actually consider to be “serious.”

Obviously killing anyone is “serious.” But women die every day at the hands of men and it generally isn’t national news. Certainly American media and the police don’t talk about the ongoing war on women, against the poor, against people of colour, or against Aborginal people with the same passion and urgency they have about this so-called war against the NYPD.

Why are women’s issue always “personal,” “private,” “individual” problems? Why are the problems of powerful men “public” problems that affect “all of us?”

Violence against women is taken for granted. Misogyny is taken for granted. Male violence is not seen as gendered. Violence against powerful men is a “public” problem — a war — and violence against women is a sidenote, if it is mentioned at all.

Sixty women disappeared from the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver over about 20 years, beginning in the early 1980s, before the police even began an investigation.

A database created by an Ottawa researcher tallies the number of missing and murdered Aboriginal women across Canada at 824.

On any given day in Canada, more than 3,300 women (along with their 3,000 children) are forced to sleep in an emergency shelter to escape domestic violence.

Most domestic violence homicides happen after a woman leaves (or tries to leave) her abuser. Women simply aren’t protected by the system. They aren’t taken seriously. The signs are there and they are ignored, over and over again, until it’s too late.

Soraya Chemaly pointed out that the number of U.S. troops killed in Afghanistan and Iraq was 6,614, while the number of women killed as the result of domestic violence during the same period in the US was 11,766.

So tell us, who is being targeted? What kind of violence matters? What kind of victims matter? Who is really, “at war?”


© Meghan Murphy

Meghan Murphy

Meghan Murphy is a writer and a journalist in Vancouver, B.C. She is the founder and editor of Feminist Current, Canada's most-read feminist blog, and is host and producer of the syndicated Feminist Current podcast.

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