After Trying to Link Baton Rouge Shooter to #BLM and Black Nationalist Groups, the Media is Suddenly Silent — Why?

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Gavin Long

Once again, the most recent incident involving the killing of police officers — this time a shootout in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, that left three officers dead and three others wounded — is being used in the mainstream media to perpetuate the narrative that #BlackLivesMatter is a terrorist organization of cop haters and killers, and that Black nationalists are anti-white hate groups.

Meanwhile, the premium placed on the lives of police officers lost — contrasted with the dispensability of Black bodies, the scrutiny placed on them when they are victimized by police violence, and the criminalization they face when police take their lives — reminds us why the #BlackLivesMatter movement is more important than ever.

According to officials in Baton Rouge, at 8:40 a.m. Sunday, police responded to a report of an armed man dressed in black near the Hammond Aire Plaza shopping center, as The New York Times reported.  After a less-than-10-minute confrontation, three officers were dead and three were wounded.  The officers killed were Montrell L. Jackson, 32, and Matthew Gerald, 41, of the Baton Rouge Police Department, and Brad Garafola, 45, a deputy with the East Baton Rouge Parish sheriff’s department. The alleged gunman was Gavin Long of Kansas City, Missouri. Long served in the Marines from 2005 to 2010, was stationed in Iraq in 2008, and received a national defense service medal and reward for good conduct, as The Times reported.  Further, he rose to the rank of sergeant.  Little is known regarding the facts in the case.

“Our preliminary investigation shows that he definitely ambushed those officers,” said Lt. J.B. Staton of the Louisiana State Police, claiming he believed that Long was targeting police, although adding that no motive had been established.

According to CNN, Long, who also went by the name of Cosmo Setepenra, turned 29 on Sunday.  And the self-proclaimed life coach, spiritual advisor and self-published author had an online presence, including a podcast and YouTube videos in which he discussed recent anti-police brutality protests and deaths of Black people at the hands of police officers.

“The only rights that you have are the ones you are willing to stand for. Otherwise you have no rights. No one can give you any rights, because if you allow someone [to] give you your rights, then that automatically, instantly give them the ability to take them away,” he said on a July 4 podcast.

Long said he was blacklisted from getting employment because he ignored the chain of command and went to the top of the chain of command to address a grievance while in the military — and won.  He also claimed the government threatened his friend not to associate with him.

“This system becomes very angry and frustrated when they can’t get their way with who they want you to become. You see, because, of course as a Marine they wanted me to be fearless, but only when they say its OK,” Long said. “Only be fearless if it’s against Al Qaeda, if it’s against ISIS, if it’s against Bin Laden, or if it’s against your own kid.  Then you be fearless. F— that, I’m telling you to remain fearless with everyone, 24-7, all the time.”

With the scant evidence available, however, there are attempts by numerous media outlets to use Long’s statements and purported affiliations to craft a motive and paint a picture that maintains the narrative of a Black Lives Matter, Black nationalist cop killer.

For example, in one video, he advocated that the victims of bullying use force: “100% have been successful through fighting back. Through bloodshed. Zero have been successful just over simply protesting. It has never worked, and it never will.”

In another video, which Long said was recorded from Dallas — where a shooting of police recently took place — he spoke of how some acts of violence are celebrated, while others are condemned. And he invoked George Washington, Nat Turner and Malcolm X, as CNN reported.

The Daily Caller reports that Long said he was a former Nation of Islam member.  According to NBC News, last year he filed paperwork in Jackson County, Missouri, in which he declared himself Cosmo Ausar Setepenra, a “sovereign citizen” of the United Washitaw De Dugdahmoundyah Mu’ur nation — a group mostly of Black people who claim Native American roots and say the U.S. government lacks jurisdiction over them.  Law enforcement officials claimed Long was a member of a sovereign citizen movement, and The Wall Street Journal reported he was a member of the New Freedom Group.

However, Long went out of his way to say he was not affiliated with a group or movement.
“I just wanted to let y’all know, don’t affiliate me with nothing,” Long said in a video posted online.  “I thought my own stuff; I made my own decisions; I’m the one who gotta listen to the judgment,” he added.

Meanwhile, amid the attempts to classify the Baton Rouge shooting as a Dallas-style police ambush, now there is an eerie silence in the media coverage of this latest incident, as if the public is not being told the entire story.  According to The Kansas City Star, reporters and a news crew arrived at the home listed as Long’s address. A reporter knocked on the door, and asked the man who showed his face through the window if Gavin Long lived there.  The man responded no, after which the reporter asked if the man knew Long.  The man, displaying a long gun pointed upward, indicated he had nothing to say, according to The Star.

When Black people are accused of killing police officers, as is the case with Gavin Long and Micah Johnson in Dallas, there is a rush to connect constitutionally protected free speech, including Black protest and affiliation with Black nationalism, with criminality and the killing of police officers. Further, when Black folks are killed by police officers, there is a mad rush to downplay and discount the loss of Black life, to criminalize the Black victim and justify the homicide the police just committed.  Any legitimate criticism of police misconduct, abuse and violence is regarded as “anti-cop” or a threat to the lives of police officers, and an impediment to the execution of their duties — as well as the execution of Black men. And any declaration that “Black Lives Matter” is branded as a war on police, a hope and a prayer that a police officer is killed.

What we are witnessing is blind obedience and an unqualified allegiance to authority, and a proclamation that the lives of Black people mean nothing all the time, while the lives of police officers mean everything. That Black lives are not equally valued necessitates the continued role of Black protest movements against state violence.

2016-07-18 09_08_17-CaptureMeanwhile, while the data do not substantiate the notion of a war on police, there is a police war on Black bodies, a crisis and state of emergency that has finally bubbled to the surface.  As The Washington Post reported, the police are safer under President Obama than they have been in years.  During the Reagan era, an average of 101 police officers were killed each year.  Under George H.W. Bush, the number was 90, followed by 81 under Clinton, 72 under George W. Bush and 62 under Obama.

According to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, 63 police officers died in the line of duty so far this year, 31 killed by gunfire.  Last year, 123 officers were killed, 41 by gunfire.  In 2014, 117 police lost their lives in the line of duty (48 by firearms), as did 107 in 2013 (33 by guns) and 126 in 2012 (50 due to gun violence), the year Trayvon Martin was killed.  In contrast, 146 Black people were killed by police so far this year, of the 591 killed by police to date, according to The Guardian’s database, The Counted.  In 2015, the first year of statistics published by the database, 1,146 people were killed by police — 306 of them Black.

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