While many area politicians called for peaceful protesting over the death of Alton Sterling, a black man allegedly shot by a white Baton Rouge police officer, a few of them went further. Democrat state Reps. Ted James and Denise Marcelle attended marches where meritless accusations, often made by frequent-flyer protesters from outside Louisiana but also issued from some local leaders, flowed about alleged state-sponsored oppression of blacks. James called the shooting “murder” and questioned “what it really means to be land of the free and home of the brave.” Marcelle wore a shirt with Sterling’s name over mimicked gunshots wounds. Marcelle is running for mayor-president of Baton Rouge later this year; James flirted with the idea before passing.
At the funeral for Sterling, Democrat Rep. Cedric Richmond echoed the theme, calling America “this discriminatory system that under-educates, over-incarcerates, a system that perpetuates income inequality,” or a repeating of tired talking points that attempt to blame “the system” (presumably run by non-blacks) for lower quality of life among blacks generally, when in fact liberal policy failures stemming from Democrat leadership have produced this. Richmond seeks reelection this fall against Democrat current and term-limited Mayor-Pres. Kip Holden, who did not attend and has made only brief, nonpolitical comments about the incident except to note that, in his opinion, Richmond’s travel from his New Orleans base only served to aggravate the situation.
And these actions and remarks came in the wake of shooting by a black racist, if troubled, sniper of white police officers and others in Dallas just over a week ago in the aftermath of the Sterling death and another in Minnesota where a black man died as a result of a white policeman’s bullet. The federal government will investigate the Sterling incident for potential police misconduct.
Thus these politicians have no excuse to not have known the volatile situation surrounding Baton Rouge. Yet even as they endorsed nonviolence, through their rhetoric and the associations with which they chose to align themselves they condoned elements peddling groundless claims that only could inflame passions destructively (although undoubtedly some protesters involved precisely intend to foment violence). Even if unintentionally, they spread the seeds that led to provocation.
That’s what germinated today, with the killing in Baton Rouge of at least three law enforcement officers through the involvement of at least three suspects. Motives at the time of this publication are not known, but seems highly unlikely that this occurred as coincidence unrelated to the Sterling death.* Gunmen simply don’t show up within a mile of the city’s main police station and in the open begin to gun down police without some direct animosity against state authority; the frenzy whipped up by some protesters with poisoned pronouncements at the very least put the community too much on edge and gave too much license for unhinged individuals to take their cue to wreak revenge and/or to initiate system change through violence.**
James, Marcelle, and Richmond acted irresponsibly, as put by my Advocate colleague Lanny Keller in reference to Marcelle, in “riding the jaguar of public opinion” through their tacit approval by not challenging, or in Richmond’s case even encouraging, divisiveness built upon a lie. Such an approach may win votes, but the drawback of its combustibility likely became all too clear tragically today.
*UPDATE (3:45 PM; original publication 12:25 PM): Unfortunately, it does appear that the attack was a premeditated assault against police and that at least one gunman, killed at the scene, came from out of state. Whether it had something to do with the Sterling death remains unclear, but certainly in an environment where during the past week a number of individuals have travelled to Baton Rouge and at protests railed against an oppressive state in general and against minorities in particular, it's hard to conclude the two are unrelated.
**UPDATE (5:30 PM; original publication 12:25 PM): The good news is the suspect, apparently an ex-Marine, may have acted alone. The bad news is apparently he had ties to anti-government groups.