Many were quick to blame Black Lives Matter for officers killed in Baton Rouge, while GOP will showcase divisive anti-BLM sheriff at tonight’s convention.
By Sheryl Estrada
On his 29th birthday on Sunday, Gavin Eugene Long of Kansas City opened fire on half a dozen police officers in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, killing three and wounding three others less than two weeksafter five police officersin Dallas were killed in an ambush.
President Barack Obama immediately condemned the shootings, saying “nothing justifies violence against law enforcement.”But while Obama called on Americans to”temper our words and open our hearts,” adding, “We don’t need inflammatory rhetoric [or] careless accusations thrown around to score political points or to advance an agenda,” that is exactly what happened.
Many were quick to blame the violence on Black Lives Matter, and Trump immediately tweeted that”President Obamadoesn’t have a clue. Our country is a divided crime scene, and it will only get worse!”
Obama acknowledged the rhetoric would be “more overheated than usual” during the political conventions this week and next, stressing, “That is why it is so important that everyone: regardless of race or political party or profession, regardless of what organizations you’re a part of, everyone right now focus on words and actions that can unite this country rather than divide it further.”
But his calls for unity fell on deaf ears. One of the featured speakers at the Republican Convention in Cleveland on Monday is Milwaukee Sheriff David Clarke, who said the Black Lives Matter movement is the root cause of the Baton Rouge shootings, as well as the killing of five white police officers in Dallas following a demonstration against the deaths by police of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge and Philando Castile in Minnesota.
In a heated interview on Sunday, Clarke told CNN’s Don Lemon he predicted what happened in Baton Rouge and Dallas, adding that “anti-cop sentiment from Black Lives Matter has fueled this rage against the American police officers.”
The White House, meanwhile, responded to an online petition created this month, under the “We the People” platform, that demanded Black Lives Matter be designated as a “terror group.” (It garnered more than 100,000 signatures, which prompted the White House to respond.)
The petition said, in part: “Terrorism is defined as ‘the use of violence and intimidation in pursuit of political aims.’ This definition is the same definition used to declare ISIS and other groups, as terrorist organizations. Black Lives Matter has earned this title due to its actions in Ferguson, Baltimore, and even at a Bernie Sanders rally, as well as all over the United States and Canada.”
“We the People”responded that the White House plays no role “in designating domestic terror organizations,” nor does the U.S. government “generate a list of domestic terror organizations.”
Following the death of Sterling on July 5, Montrell Jackson, a 10-year-veteran of the Baton Rouge police force and one of the three officers killed Sunday, shared in a Facebook post what it was like to be a police officer and Black man.
“I’ve experienced so much in my short life and the past 3 days have tested me to the core,” he wrote. “I swear to God I love this city but I wonder if this city loves me. In uniform I get nasty hateful looks and out of uniform some consider me a threat.”
Jackson remained hopeful, though.
“Please don’t let hate infect your heart. This city MUST and WILL get better. I’m working in these streets so any protesters, officers, friends, family, or whoever, if you see me and need a hug or want to say a prayer I got you.”
Gavin Long, the gunman in Baton Rouge, was shot and killed by police. The former U.S. Marine had achieved the rank of sergeant and served in Iraq. He assumed an online extremist persona, Cosmo Setepenra, and used social media to rail against police violence.
Last week, after Sterling’s death, he stated in a YouTube video, “If y’all wanna keep protesting, do that, but for the serious ones, the real ones, the alpha ones, we know what it’s going to take. It’s only fighting back or money, that’s all they care about. Revenue and blood.”
Allison Padilla-Goodman, a regional director with the Anti-Defamation League in New Orleans, said no credible information has yet linked Long to any extremist groups, according to The Advocate.
She said there are “still a lot of rumors,” and “we are currently looking into Gavin Long and his alias.”
Long used an AR-15 style semi-automatic rifle to kill Jackson, along with fellow officers Matthew Gerald, on the force for less than a year, and East Baton Rouge Sheriff’s Office 24-year veteran Brad Garafola.
A nursing student and Army reservist, Gillian Rose Triche, 31, lives near the B-Quik gas station in Baton Rouge and heard gunshots Sunday morning.
As a witness, she began posting on Twitter accounts of the events.
“Sadly, I am not ever surprised when I see a fellow service member has taken their life or the life of another,” Triche told the Los Angeles Times after hearing reports that Long was a former Marine.
“We are ill-equipped to deal with mental health issues. My heart breaks that it’s one of my brothers in arms.”
Micah Johnson, the Dallas gunman, served in the U.S. Army in Afghanistan, and a complaint of sexual harassment caused him to be sent home. According to The Dallas Morning News, his military attorneysaid, “The woman asked Johnson receive mental help and for a protective order against him.”
Triche also said she supports both law enforcement and the Black Lives Matter movement.
“I support my police officers and Black Lives Matter, and those two are not mutually exclusive,” Triche said.
In a statement, U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch said there would be a full investigation.
“For the second time in two weeks, multiple law enforcement officers have been killed in the line of duty,” Lynch said. “I pledge the full support of the Department of Justice as the investigation unfolds.”