“Complete pandemonium,” according to one witness, broke out when gunshots were fired at a protest in Dallas, Texas regarding the recent police brutality against two African Americans, Alton Sterling in Louisiana and Philando Castile in Minnesota.
Witnesses explained that prior to the first shots fired, the police were peaceful, and they were even, allegedly, taking photos with protesters. Other peaceful protests took place in Manhattan, Minnesota, Atlanta, Chicago, and Philadelphia, without the devastating result of this one.
The protests were the result of a buildup of sustained police brutality against African Americans, and discrepancies between the way African Americans are treated, as opposed to how white Americans are treated by both the police and the legal system.
It is clear that hostilities were aimed exclusively at police, as so far, only two civilians have been reported to be injured, while five officers have been confirmed dead, another six have been confirmed to be injured, with two of them in a critical state.
The violence came in the form of an ambush, believed to be executed by snipers, who were attempting to injure as many officers as they could. Police have located four suspects, but are still on edge, as they are not confident that they have found all of those responsible. One of the suspects, who had directly exchanged fire with officers, has been reported dead due to, allegedly, committing suicide, and the other three have been detained.
According to Dallas Police Chief, David O Brown, who addressed the media: this suspect “has told our negotiators that the end is coming and he’s going to hurt and kill more of us, meaning law enforcement, and that there are bombs all over the place, … so we are being very careful with our tactics.”
Police are unsure whether the deceased gunman was acting alone, as he claimed during negotiations.
President Obama, despite being away at the moment for a NATO summit in Warsaw, Poland, addressed the discrepancies in question: “African Americans are 30% more likely than whites to be pulled over. After being pulled over, African Americans and Hispanics are three times more likely to be searched. Last year, African Americans were shot at by police more than twice the rate of whites; African Americans are arrested at twice the rate of whites. African American defendants are 75% more likely to be charged with offenses carrying mandatory minimums; they receive sentences that are almost 10% longer than comparable whites arrested for the same crime. So that, if you add it all up, the African American and Hispanic population who make up only 30% of the general population, make up more than half of the incarcerated population.”
These are worrying statistics. Higher rates of incarceration and fatalities based on racial difference, and a history of years of continued oppression, does not breed socio-economic equality. This combined with life-threatening weapons being a casual item that any given person on the street may be harbouring, and a racial prejudice which may lead one to believe a person is more dangerous than they are, makes for frightening waters. Gun violence could easily break out with a wrong move or the right amount of misinterpretation of body language, as it did in the two cases of police brutality that led to the protests.
History has shown that where socio-economic discrepancies and inequalities occur, revolution and war usually follows. Unless the US makes some drastic policy changes that further target equality, as well as stricter gun control, this may be the direction the country goes down.