A tragic end to a peaceful protest in Dallas

Catherine McNaughton

Photograph: Ash Carter/Flickr

In what President Obama has called a “vicious, calculated, despicable attack on law enforcement,” five American police officers have been shot and killed in Dallas.

On Thursday evening, five police officers were murdered with a further seven injured as one known shooter fired from an “elevated position” in downtown Dallas. A peaceful protest in retaliation to the murders of two black men, Alton Sterling in Louisiana and Philando Castile in Minneapolis, turned to senseless violence in America, yet again. It was one man’s mission against, in his words, “white officers.” Yet, in this case, innocent officers.

The anti-violence rally in Dallas was justified, necessary and an opportunity to unite what is an increasingly more fractured society. The Black Lives Matter movement in America seeks peace in the face of countless more African American murders prior to both Sterling and Castile. The police officers in Dallas were facilitating this protest. Yet, the actions of 25-year-old suspect Micah Johnson (as named in the Associated Press) have detracted from what could have been a moment of change in Dallas.

Amateur footage of Thursday night exemplifies the fear and confusion that so often accompanies a shooting. The videos display crowds running and screaming once the gunfire started. Footage also showcases the injured officers laying in the street. A witness, Devante Odom, in an interview with Dallas Morning News said, “Everyone just started running … we lost touch with two of our friends just trying to get out of there.”

The suspect Johnson has since died cornered at a parking garage near El Centro College. Yet more suspects have been caught, two males and one female. The Dallas Police department are not ruling out any motives at this stage.

The murders, on both sides, have highlighted the enduring issues of both race and the availability of guns in America. When does a month, or even a week, go by where the world is not shocked and mourning after another fatal gun attack in the United States? What is the limit? When is the next attack?

These policemen did not deserve to die. They were doing to their job. Yet this in turn does not detract from the previous episodes of police brutality against black people. There is no way to simplify it. How are black Americans supposed to feel safe? How are police expected to do their job if they are not respected but in turn expected to be racist?

This is the deadliest attack on the US law enforcement since 11th September 2001. An emotive and poignant comparison for many Americans. I mourn for Dallas, a city in anguish, like Orlando less than a month ago. Yet, in these times of international divide, Dallas police Chief David Brown summarised the solution, “This must stop – this divisiveness between our police and our citizens.” Brown does not apologise for his profession nor does he villainise the protestors. Rationality, reason and humanity are necessary attributes in these trying times.

Obama speaking in Warsaw promises, “Justice will be done,” but I ask America, when and for whom?

About Catherine McNaughton 6 Articles
Catherine McNaughton is currently a History undergraduate student at the University of York. She enjoys writing about global affairs and the under-represented views in politics. She is also interested in the history of America, particularly in terms of development of diversity. Follow Catherine on Twitter @__CatherineMac