'They could have been shot. They could have been killed.'
Two years ago this month, police rioted in cities across the United States. They attacked protesters, drove cruisers into crowds, and beat people senseless — sometimes in response to property damage, but generally for the mere crime of trying to stop police brutality and protest the extrajudicial murder of Black people. This was widely seen at the time as a turning point — a moment when people from all classes, races, and walks of life woke up to the reality of security-state impunity and decided they’d had enough.
Today the corrugated plastic Black Lives Matter signs still hold their once-unimaginable position on lawns in white suburbs, fading next to newer sigils in the blue and yellow of the Ukrainian flag. Limited reforms and attempts to find alternatives to policing have been attempted in some cities. But as a national political project, the effort to break America’s cult of police worship seems to be moribund, crushed primarily from above. National Democrats including President Biden still fall over themselves to provide unlimited money for armed and armored cops and military equipment on U.S. streets, while Republicans grin Cheshire smiles and talk as if the “libs” secretly defunded the police anyway. The most durable political legacy of the George Floyd uprising is the “anti-woke” backlash — a Thin Blue Line flag waving triumphantly, as “reasonable” centrists cheer and a Chris Rufo-designed boot stomps on a human face forever.
It’s hard not to think of that as I watch events unfold in the South Texas borderland. For the second time in two weeks, and the tenth time since New Year’s, an American gunman has committed mass murder. This time, the victims were schoolchildren. As the parent of a toddler, that makes this one hit harder for me. But so does the carnival of lies that now appears to have been covering up unpardonable cowardice on the part of the Uvalde Police Department.