Robert Williams shot two New York City police officers Saturday night. Sunday morning, he continued his rampage at a police precinct in the Bronx, where he opened fire and shot a police lieutenant. He also injured another officer who was trying to subdue him before being taken into custody.

This was a terrible act of violence, but now it seems the looming question is who else is responsible other than the actual gunman. The police union pinned blame on Democratic state legislators who are apparently soft on crime. Police Commissioner Dermot Shea believed police protestors were accomplices in the "premeditated assassination attempt."

SHEA: Just remember these things are not unrelated. We have people marching in New York City last week and I condemned it and I condemn it right here again today -- using profanities against the Police Department.

They are in fact completely unrelated. However, Mayor Bill De Blasio agreed with Shea's top-notch police work.

DE BLASIO: Anyone who spews hatred at our officers is aiding and abetting this kind of atmosphere. It's not acceptable. You can protest whatever for whatever you believe in, but you cannot vilely attack those who are here to protect us. It creates this kind of dynamic.

This a crazy irresponsible statement. Roughly 500 people gathered last month in Grand Central Terminal to protest the increased police presence in subways. Demonstrators held up signs stating "Poverty is not a crime" and "The real fare beaters are on Wall Street." Some even led a call-and-response chant: "How do you spell racist? N-Y-P-D." People might consider that rude, but it's also free speech. What it definitely isn't is criminal facilitation. Saying mean things about the police didn't provide Williams with either the means or the opportunity to shoot cops.

The mayor shouldn't use the term "aiding and abetting" metaphorically. It has a specific definition. If de Blasio has evidence that the protestors had previous knowledge of Williams's intentions and actively helped him in any way, he should contact the police. However, disagreeing with police tactics or even just straight-up disliking the police aren't the same on a moral or practical level as actually trying to murder police officers.


It also doesn't matter politically if de Blasio jumps on the authoritarian bandwagon. Cops still hate him. This is a tweet from the Sergeant Benevolent Association.

So ... uh ... that's alarming. Everyone should just chill with the highly charged language. It's not helpful. The SBA charges that de Blasio "sold the NYPD to the vile creatures," which is like some Stephen King shit. The group defines the "vile creatures" as the 1 percent of New Yorkers who hate cops but support de Blasio. Some quick math: 1 percent of 8.5 million residents is 85,000 (or almost a South Bend). It's hard to see how "cop haters" are a critical voting bloc for the mayor.

The SBA tweet demonstrates a common double standard. Inflammatory rhetoric from the police and/or conservatives is never responsible for violent acts against politicians and liberal citizens. Free speech is just grand when publicly threatening the mayor of New York.

You know a tweet has crossed the line when Donald Trump's appears sober in comparison. The president and defiler of New York called out de Blasio's (and Gov. Andrew Cuomo's) "weak leadership" but didn't literally declare war against anyone. And he could! He doesn't answer to Congress anymore.

Whenever tragedy rocks New York City, the word on everybody's lips is "Rudy." Mister, we could use a man like Rudy Giuliani again. Those were the days! During an appearance on Fox News yesterday, the former New York mayor claimed that he "can't walk down the street" without people asking him to run again and turn a blind yet approving eye toward police violence.

Giuliani's favorable ratings were 32 percent in 2018 and defending Trump like a shady mob lawyer from a "Law & Order" rerun probably hasn't helped. But it's always sunny and 2002 in Giuliani's mind.

There's no evidence that the man who actually pulled the trigger is connected to any protest group. HIs political motivation was reportedly no more complex than simply "hating cops." Williams was convicted of attempted murder more than 15 years ago, but he was paroled in 2017 well before any recent so-called "soft on crime" laws. His grandmother, Mary Williams, claims he's been disturbed since the murder of his son two years earlier.

He had one son. He was 18, he was getting ready to go to college upstate, and somebody shot him in the street and killed him. He never got over it.

She also claims that Williams might've turned to drugs to "cope with his grief." None of this excuses attempted murder, but it does perhaps demonstrate how violence begets more violence. Unfortunately, life is often more complicated and less black and white than the folks in blue care to admit.

[New York Times]

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Stephen Robinson

Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He's on the board of the Portland Playhouse theater and writes for the immersive theater Cafe Nordo in Seattle. Tickets are on sale now for his latest Nordo collaboration, "Curiouser and Curiouser," an adaptation of "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland" and "Through the Looking Glass." It promises to feel like an actual evening with SER (for good or for ill).

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