I was a few minutes away from where last Thursday’s attack on police officers in Dallas happened. I saw how quickly the police response was, even though I never heard shots go off or saw people running. I watched the coverage with anxiety as all of North Texas tried to figure out what happened, how many officers were killed or hurt, and if there was one suspect or more. An acquaintance of mine is a Dallas Area Rapid Transit police officer (who is thankfully safe) and I’ve talked to Dallas Police Chief David Brown a few times at a restaurant we both frequent. Even with my love for Big D, and the pain I feel after the attack, I don’t blame Black Lives Matter or the fact a gun was used in the attack. The only person who should be blamed for what happened is Micah Johnson.
This isn’t an easy opinion to have, but it’s something most of the people I’ve spoken to in Dallas feel. What certain politicians (on both sides of the aisle) forget is how peaceful this protest was on Thursday. Protesters were taking pictures with officers (with everyone smiling), and officers were along the route to make sure everyone was safe. The family of a wounded protester told reporters she was more worried about police than herself, and another man (I’ve no idea if he was involved in the protest) praised a wounded DART officer for saving his life. Another protester wrote on Facebook how angry she was with Johnson because both sides were respectful towards each other. The city and county of Dallas have worked hard to have a good relationship with all communities. It’s not perfect, but this isn’t Ferguson or Chicago or Baltimore.
There’s no reason to blame the Dallas Black Lives Matter protest organizers for what happened on Thursday. They were using their constitutionally guaranteed rights of freedom of speech and association to air what they believed were grievances done in other states by officers against black people. There’s nothing wrong with a protest happening, as long as people obey the law. Protesters are welcome to hold up whatever sign they want, yell and scream whatever they want, and march along the streets or in parks, as long as it doesn’t descend into violence.
The same goes for people who aren’t blaming the gun Johnson used in the killings. A black guy I talked to in Target on Saturday said, “I can put a gun right here and it’s not gonna hurt anyone.” Others have echoed similar sentiment, because it appears Johnson was planning to do a larger attack (with home-made explosives) and Thursday’s march just gave him an excuse to push up his timeline. Politicians who push gun control either purposefully forget or just ignore the simple fact that guns are just tools. Yes, they are tools which can be used to kill (or hurt) people, but they’re also tools used to protect others. The man who was briefly called a “person of interest” on Thursday was carrying his weapon to protect protesters. Open Carry Texas exists because they want more people to be able to protect others and themselves. Suzanna Hupp, who was later a Texas State Representative, became an advocate for concealed carry because she had to leave her gun in her car before the 1991 Luby’s shooting in Killeen. Hupp lost her parents in the mass shooting, and believed she could have protected them (and others) if she’d been able to carry her gun inside the restaurant. Just because someone uses a gun to commit evil, doesn’t mean the gun should be blamed.
There are also going to be people to want to put the blame on Twitter comments made by certain members of Black Lives Matter. It’s certainly true these statements are inflammatory, but there’s no guarantee it falls under the definition of “incitement.” The same goes for a certain person on the Right who urged the killing of Muslims by Americans. Inflammatory, yes, but not incitement based on the Brandenburg v. Ohio decision by the U.S. Supreme Court. Free speech is free speech. Unless someone who perpetrated a crime said, “Yes, I was directed by _____, and we were planning _____,” you can’t charge people who spout off stupid things. If we did, then it would set a dangerous precedent for those in power to use against people who disagreed with them.
This isn’t trying acquit the Black Lives Matter members who DO want to see cops hurt and killed, and have caused trouble all across the country. But they’re the minority of the minority. Remember, there were also black Ferguson protesters who told white agitators from Chicago to back down and not riot after the Michael Brown killing. We need to remember this. Those who simply want reform should be praised and publicized, not those who preach hate.
Plenty of people in Dallas know who to blame and who not to blame. We just want to mourn and process what happened last Thursday. We don’t want politics, we don’t want talking points, and we definitely don’t want distractions. We want time to mourn and heal. There’s only one person to blame: Micah Johnson. He used his hate, his anger, his weapon, and his Army training to kill five officers on Thursday. But he alone made the choice to do so. People need to realize this before they start sowing more divisiveness through political rhetoric.