On the Baton Rouge and Milwaukee Police Shootings

[Content Note: Guns; violence; targeting of police; police brutality; self-harm; domestic violence.]

On July 5, police officers killed Alton Sterling, a Black man who was selling CDs outside a convenience store in Baton Rouge. There have been protests in the city since.

In a terrible incident reminiscent of the Dallas shooting, a Black veteran killed police in Baton Rouge yesterday. "State and local officials speaking at the news conference Sunday afternoon did not address whether the police were targeted specifically or whether they were shot as they tried to intervene during a crime." The man, Gavin Long of Kansas City, Missouri, fatally shot three police officers and wounded three others yesterday. He was killed by police.

There has, naturally, been an abundance of commentary implicitly or explicitly blaming Black Lives Matter protesters for Long's actions. This is deeply unfair. Black Lives Matter activists have been very clear about not advocating violence against police.

And, to be blunt, it's not their fault they were obliged to protest Sterling's death in the first place. Or any of the other Black people killed by police.

That is not to suggest that police "deserved" it. Not at all. As I have said in this space many, many times, the solution to abuse is never more abuse. Violence is not justice.

It is only to say that it seems spectacularly unjust to me to blame protesters for something they don't want to have to protest.

My sincerest condolences to the families, friends, and colleagues of the police officers who were killed. I hope those who were injured have access to the resources they need to recover.

* * *

Meanwhile, in Milwaukee: "A domestic violence suspect opened fire on a Milwaukee police officer who was sitting in his squad car early Sunday, seriously wounding him before fleeing and apparently killing himself shortly afterward, authorities said."

We don't know much about Long, the man who killed and injured the police officers in Baton Rouge, but I will not be even a little bit surprised if it turns out he had a history of domestic violence and/or some other sort of inappropriate behavior toward women. To be frank, I will be surprised if it turns out he didn't.

* * *

I have been writing in this space for years about expressed misogyny and domestic violence as a precursor to mass violence, public shootings, and acts of terror.

Elliot Rodger. Ben Moynihan. Marc Lépine. Seung-Hui Cho. George Sodini. Anders Behring Breivik. Jaylen Fryburg. Mark Dorch. Christopher Harper-Mercer. All of these men had expressed a resentment of and hatred for women.

Dylann Roof justified his mass murder of parishioners at the AME church in Charleston by asserting his ownership of white women.

December 2012: Adam Lanza goes on a killing spree at an elementary school. He started his rampage by killing his mother.

April 2013: Tamerlan Tsarnaev, one of the brothers who bombed the Boston Marathon, is reported to have been arrested for domestic violence against his girlfriend several years before the bombing.

February 2015: Cedric Ford goes on a shooting spree, wounding 14 people and killing three others across multiple sites after being "served a protection from abuse order just hours before the first shooting."

November 2015: Robert Dear shoots at a Planned Parenthood facility, killing three people. He has a history of anti-choice vandalism, stalking, peeping, and domestic violence.

June 2016: Omar Mateen goes on a deadly shooting spree at Pulse Nightclub in Orlando. He has a history of domestic violence, including against an ex-wife whose parents had to physically extricate her from the marriage.

July 2016: Micah Xavier Johnson ambushes police and kills five officers. He was discharged from military service for sexual harassment.

July 2016: Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel goes on a violent rampage in Nice on Bastille Day, after his wife threw him out of the house and filed for divorce. A neighbor said: "He kept to himself but would always rant about his wife. He had marital problems and would tell people in the local cafe."

Which is not even the complete list of misogynist mass killers, nor a comprehensive accounting of the incidents of mass violence committed by people with a history of domestic violence.

When the Huffington Post analyzed five years of data on mass shootings, they found "that a majority of these mass shootings were related to domestic violence. In 57 percent of the incidents, a family member or an intimate partner was among the victims."

And that is just mass shootings directly related to domestic violence. If any incident in which the perpetrator had any history of domestic violence were included, the number would shoot up exponentially.

"The pattern," wrote Pamela Shifman and Salamishah Tillet in the New York Times last year, "is striking. Men who are eventually arrested for violent acts often began with attacks against their girlfriends and wives. In many cases, the charges of domestic violence were not taken seriously or were dismissed."

This is the reality of mass violence:

Remember this when you hear anyone try to blame activists for any of these incidents. It's just another misdirection, so we can keep pretending that it doesn't matter if we allow domestic abusers to own guns.

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