The leader of the Black Lives Matter chapter in St. Paul, Minn., has a problem with the resolution being pushed by the Fraternal Order of Police that calls for expanding the federal hate crimes law to including killing police.
“Law enforcement wants to make themselves out to be the victims,” Rashad Turner told the Star Tribune after the Red Wing, Minn., City Council approved the FOP-sponsored resolution.
James Pasco, the executive director of the Fraternal Order of Police Legislative Advocacy Center, told PJM he actually agrees with Turner: “Well, when people are ambushed and killed for no other reason than because they are police officers, they are victims.”
The Red Wing City Council is one of three local governmental units to support the expansion of the federal hate crime law. Shelbyville, Ind., City Council members also voted to support the resolution in October. Warren County, Ohio, commissioners approved the resolution in late September.
“It seems that anyone wearing a blue uniform has become a target in the minds of a lot of people — a target not because of what they’re doing, but a target because of who they are, which for me really kind of moves it into the hate crimes area,” Red Wing City Council Vice President Peggy Rehder said after the resolution was approved.
“In this case, it’s not the color of their skin, but the color of their uniform,” she added.
Rehder told WCCO-TV she’d like to see the Minnesota Legislature take up the resolution in the 2016 session.
Red Wing Police Chief Roger Pohlman made sure a Black Lives Matters protest at the Minnesota State Fair in which BLM demonstrators chanted “police are pigs, fry them like bacon” was fresh on the minds of the city council when he presented the resolution.
Pohlman said the BLM protest was typical of what he described as “negative rhetoric toward law enforcement professionals.”
Nekima Levy-Pounds, the present of the Minneapolis chapter of the NAACP, who also serves as a spokeswoman for the Black Lives Matter chapter in that city, defended the behavior of BLM demonstrators and pointed to a study that showed Minnesota is the second-worst place in America for black people to live.
“Anyone who has studied the history of protests understands that protests can be disruptive, protests can be inconvenient, protests will disrupt the status quo and business as usual — that’s the whole point,” she told Minnesota Public Radio.
Jack Levin, a professor of sociology at Northeastern University in Boston, has spoken out against the idea of including police officers on the list of people protected by federal hate crime legislation.
Levin argued the law was intended to protect against violence done on the basis of ethnicity, religion, gender, or sexual choice – not professional group affiliation.
“Of course, the police have always been in the line of attack,” he said. “It’s part of the job. And they’re not the only occupational group in that situation, although theirs is extreme.”
But Fraternal Order of Police President Chuck Canterbury doesn’t see it that way. He has been pushing since January to rally support for the resolution to make the murder of a police officer a federal hate crime.
Canterbury renewed his call for an expansion of the federal hate crimes law to cover police in late August after a deputy sheriff was shot and killed while pumping gas in Texas.
Canterbury noted in a statement released by the FOP Aug. 29 that Deputy Sheriff Darren Goforth was one of 23 police officer shot to death this year.
“All of these officers died because of the uniforms they were wearing. They were killed because their murderers had one purpose – to kill a cop,” he said. “Our nation’s law enforcement officers deserve better.”
The FOP released another statement a few days later condemning what it saw as a “crisis of a nationwide trend of violence against police officers.”
“The FOP will not be silent. We will not be afraid or be rendered paralyzed by political correctness,” said Canterbury. “We will not do nothing.”
However, just as the FOP move to bring the killing of police under the federal hate crimes legislative umbrella is motivated by the murders of law enforcement officers, Black Lives Matter organizers like Rashad Turner would say their movement began with the deaths of people like Eric Garner in New York and Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo.
They also point to a Washington Post study released in September that showed unarmed young black men are seven times as likely to die by police gunfire as their white counterparts.
So, Turner, who ironically interned with the St. Paul Police Department before deciding he didn’t want to be a police officer, told the Pioneer Press he won’t be silent, either.
“People need to understand I’m fighting for justice,” Turner said. “I’m trying to help my community.”