Attacks against the police are organized and violent
Over the weekend, a gunman walked up to two Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department deputies who were sitting in their patrol car and opened fire. Both officers are still in critical condition from their gunshot wounds. This is just one of several violent attacks against law enforcement since the death of George Floyd. As the officers were rushed to the hospital, protestors blocked the emergency entrances and exits to the hospital, shouting “We hope they die.”
These types of vile and violent protests, rioting and destruction have taken a hold of many American cities since late May, after George Floyd was killed by a Minneapolis police officer. Often, these incidents start out as peaceful protests, but then rapidly turn into the violence, as many Americans have witnessed on TV. Most often, the groups involved direct that violence at one place — law enforcement officers.
Portland has suffered vast destruction for more than 100 days due to the violent protests, which started as peaceful demonstrations calling for racial equality.
Similarly in Seattle, a police station was burned down and an area of the city has been taken over by a group called CHAZ or CHOP. In New York City, protests turned violent earlier this summer and the destruction was widespread, even though Mayor Bill DeBlasio (D) asked the New York City Police Department to use a “light touch” when dealing with the protesters. Hundreds of officers have been reportedly injured.
Peaceful demonstrations have also turned violent in Washington, D.C., and officers were injured there too.
But who is behind the violence?
Early on, many people in the law enforcement community supported the premise that the violence occurring was not only from the local criminal elements but also from organized groups like Antifa and the “boogaloo” boys.
Just days after Floyd’s killing, the Department of Homeland Security issued a warning in a memo that extremists could try to co-opt the Floyd protest, referring to such actors as domestic terrorists. The FBI also issued an assessment that found an extremist group encouraged its followers to start the “boogaloo,” a term for a second Civil War, by shooting at a crowd.
Larry Cosme, the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association president, has said from the beginning that such violence against officers from these “radical” groups must be investigated and prosecuted.
Yet some, like Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.), who chairs the House Judiciary Committee, have expressed skepticism about violent actors co-opting protests, referring to Antifa as a “myth.”
This was the opposite from his colleague and House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.), who said that the movement for racial justice suffers when it is “hijacked” by violence.
In an LA Times article about militant activism, the general sentiment is that these groups aren’t a tightly affiliated entity but that their ideology and practice of using violence and destruction at protests is well documented. As one Antifa follower said, “peaceful protests aren’t going to get anything done.” But she also noted she doesn’t engage in violence.
Regardless of intent, the target of much of this violence has unfortunately been the law enforcement officers assigned to monitor and protect the protests.
In July, 49 officers were injured after a coordinated ambush at the Grant Park Columbus Statue in Chicago.
Law enforcement isn’t the only group bearing the brunt of this violence; other peaceful protesters, small businesses and residents all suffer under this coordinated violence.
As was reported in Chicago, a standard tactic is groups of people hiding under umbrella shields, changing into black clothing and passing out make-shift weapons used to incite violence. That co-opting of protests has made it difficult to identify which group(s) are responsible for the ongoing violence. Due in part to this violence, the FBI’s preliminary statistics from July show a 28 percent increase in law enforcement felonious fatalities compared to the same period in 2019.
As violence continues to erupt in pockets across the country, a bill sits in the current Congress called the Protect and Serve Act, which would create federal penalties for attacking law enforcement officers. It passed in the last Congress by over 300 votes in the House of Representatives. The Senate is poised to introduce a companion bill soon and if it passes, could be a new tool to stop groups targeting law enforcement officers.
Donald J. Mihalek is a retired senior Secret Service Regional Training, tactics and firearms instructor. He also serves as the executive director of the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association.