When speaking out against instances of police brutality and racism, I often hear a response along the lines of “why are you protesting for this criminal?” Since I hear it enough, I thought I would write a brief response here so that I can just provide the link in the future and not waste type typing a separate response. For all the reasons stated below, the “why are you protesting for this criminal?” retort is baseless and often disingenuous.
Background on the “why are you protesting for this criminal?” retort
When I’ve commented online about police brutality and protests that I have organized in response to that brutality, there are invariably comments made by people who assert that because the person who the police abused had a criminal history, there should be no protests over that instance of brutality. There are similar memes shared online, expressing the idea that if the person who was abused by police has a criminal history then it is wrong to protest that abuse committed by the police. Sometimes these memes will take the form of “[Insert name of police brutality victim] beat up his ex-girlfriend in 2009, why are you all protesting a domestic abuser. Imagine how she must feel about people saying his name like he is a hero.”
Obviously I don’t endorse people committing crimes, but that is not a reason to ignore instance of police brutality and racism, as I’ll discuss below.
Police shouldn’t execute or otherwise abuse anyone
Whether a person is a cancer-curing, Noble-prize-winning, orphan-rescuing hero or a terribly violent jerk, it is not the role of the police to meet out vengeance through unwarranted violence. A person does not need to be venerated as a hero for us to conclude that the police were wrong for mistreating them. The way I see it, standing against government-sponsored violence against a vulnerable individual is always right – whether that vulnerable individual is someone who I would want to have over for dinner or not.
Remember, the foundation of our existence as a country under the rule of law is that no one is above the law’s prohibitions, and no one is beneath the law’s protections.
This is a pretty simple concept so I won’t spend much more time on it. We have courts and a criminal justice system to decide whether a person is guilty and what sentence they should receive. Extrajudicial violence from police officers (who are themselves breaking the law and the oaths they took when becoming police officers) is not justice and should always be condemned.
Anyone who still doesn’t get this should look at numerous examples where vigilante “justice” has resulted in terrible atrocities. The lynching of Emmett Till is a good starting point.
The focus on the criminal record of a person wrongfully killed by the police is grasping at straws to find a reason to oppose much-needed social change
Those who are opposed to civil rights progress search for any reason to justify their opposition. Whenpeacefully and silently took a knee, those opposed to civil rights falsely claimed he was disrespecting American soldiers. When professional athletes when on strike, attacks were made on their characters. Trying to find ways to smear the victims of police brutality and use that as an argument against protesting that instance of brutality is just another such tactic. Literally every approach taken by civil rights activists to fix the problems of police brutality and racism are met with scorn and derision.
Police manage to arrest many violent, terrible white people without murdering them
I have already written a separate article addressing the fact that police choose to use force more often and with more violence when dealing with black people than when dealing with white people. In that article I provide scientific evidence to support that conclusion, discus how the studies mirror what I have seen in my personal life as a black man and as an attorney who has represented people who were mistreated by the police, and provide links to that evidence. Read that article here: https://www.learnaboutguns.com/2020/06/17/police-use-of-force-depends-upon-the-race-of-the-suspect/
Violent police pose a danger to us all
A situation where the police are permitted to brutalize someone who they believe has a bad criminal history poses a very real danger to us all. Many of the cases of police brutality that have led to protests involve the police misidentifying an innocent person as a criminal and then using violence against that innocent person. Any of us (or our loved ones) could be the next innocent person who the police brutalize. As such it behooves everyone to take a stand against police brutality.
Indeed, the “mistaken identify” risk is so high that police are actually killing each other because they are so violent and trigger-happy. If those opposed to civil rights actually cared about the well-being of the police officers they claim to back, they would want to see the problem of police brutality fixed so that those police officers would stop killing each other. More on that issue can be seen in the separate article I’ve written here: https://www.learnaboutguns.com/2020/07/16/police-in-america-are-so-violent-and-trigger-happy-that-they-are-accidentally-killing-each-other/
Finally, given the inherent racism in our criminal courts where many black and brown people are convicted of crimes they didn’t commit, or convicted in factual situation where a white defendant would not have had the conviction go on their record, the fact that someone has a criminal conviction should not be seen as conclusive evidence that they are factually guilty or are a bad person deserving of hatred. I’ve also written a separate article on that point, complete with numerous citations to scientific studies: https://www.learnaboutguns.com/2020/07/05/our-criminal-courts-are-inherently-racist/