We had a terrible thing happen in my neighborhood over the weekend. Two uniformed police officers were murdered while sitting in their parked patrol car. It happened not that far from where we live, in an area I travel through daily while running errands, getting groceries, etc. I am horrified that this has happened and feel heartbroken for the families of those officers.
Last weekend my husband and I attended the Millions March here in NYC. We walked for a couple of hours until my feet were too cold to continue. At both that march, and one I had walked in just after the non-indictment of the officer in Eric Garner's death, there were some marchers chanting slogans I refrained from joining. Any slogans indicting the whole of the police force as racist, or comparing them to the KKK, I was like, nah, no. Not useful.
In any large demonstration there are inevitably going to be folks who join in with their own particular axe to grind. But the more inflammatory rhetoric of some marchers should in no way discount the larger demand being expressed. That there are systemic injustices happening within our criminal justice system that have to be corrected.
Both here, and in Ferguson, those injustices have fallen most obviously along race lines. In Ferguson, one (legitimate) complaint was that the (primarily white) police force didn't reflect the racial make-up of the population that they patrolled. But this isn't the case in NYC. The police officers assigned to oversee the demonstration were as diverse racially as the folks demonstrating. Promoting greater diversity in the Ferguson police force is a valid and worthy goal, but by no means the primary solution to the problem. And not the problem here in NYC.
I think this city is at a fairly critical juncture. There exists the possibility of real and meaningful change on an institutional level. There exists also the very real and equal possibility of a tragic slide backward. There is a momentum behind some of the pretty dramatic changes happening in our civic environment—the decriminalization of pot, the reform of the stop-and-frisk policies, a more critical look at the "broken windows" theory of law enforcement. But there are invariably people who will use a terrible event as an opportunity to inflame prejudice and discord. I really, really hope we can get it together as a city and take a hard and critical look at ourselves. I really, really hope that it doesn't devolve into finger-pointing and hard lines and entrenched positions. I guess we'll see.