Baton Rouge Killer: What is Driving Violent Retaliation By Lone Gunmen?
Black Agenda Report’s Glen Ford says shooting like that of Baton Rouge and Texas will continue as long as the power structure continues to refuse to hold police accountable
SHARMINI PERIES, TRNN: It’s the Real News Network. I’m Sharmini Peries coming to you from Baltimore.
Early Sunday morning, on his 29th birthday, Gavin Long shot six cops, killing three of them. Gavin Long was known on social media as Cosmo Setepenra. He made various videos to propagate his thoughts online after the Dallas shooting. He broadcast this video:
GAVIN LONG: Look, you gotta really look at certain things. Because say, for instance, the holiday had just passed. Independence day. Independence day is really based on, say, George Washington and the Americans fighting against their oppressor, Britain. And we celebrate that. We tell them they’re right. You get it? But when an African fights back, it’s wrong. But every time a European fights back against his oppressor, he’s right. But soon as an African tries to fight back–. Why is that?
So we gotta start questioning our mindset. Our thoughts are all in thoughts, because it doesn’t even make sense, the shit we thinking about. You feel me? You gotta really question your thoughts, because you’re saying one person is right but then you’re saying another person is wrong for doing the same exact fucking thing. In fact, we celebrate it and make holidays about it. It doesn’t make sense.
PERIES: Gavin Long was a marine sergeant who called himself a freedom strategist. What is going on in this young man’s head? To discuss this I’m joined by Glen Ford of the Black Agenda Report.
GLEN FORD: Thank you for having me.
PERIES: So, Glen, what is going on in this young black man who, you know, by all accounts that I can gather, when I listen to these videos that he had put online, you know, sounds like a frustrated, but you know, fairly analytical young man?
FORD: Well, first of all, we have an opportunity here, first of all, to look at the macrocosm and the microcosm. The individual, Gavin Long, and then take a look at black America as a whole. And we also have the opportunity to look at Gavin Long in two different periods. What you were just showing is a recent YouTube that shows his response, clearly, of course, before picking up the gun, but after the protest in Baton Rouge and the police repression of those protests occurred. But there are also podcasts available of what he called his radio program, Convos with Cosmo.
And in those we see a person who is an entrepreneurial, rather self-centered, materialistic, thing-loving kind of guy who offers a product, or rather the product is himself. The product’s called Cosmo’s Way, where he markets himself as a dietician and nutritionist, and a spiritual advisor. And he is the last thing from a movement person, and he eschews movements or politics as he does on the YouTube.
So clearly something happened with the individual Gavin Long, or Cosmo, that sent him on a mission with a rifle. But I think that something has happened with black folks as a whole, too, which was people have reached a kind of point of inflection. And it has to do, everything, with the intransigence of this mass black incarceration state, with this police reign of terror. Here for three years now, under a black president, we have had black protest, militant black protest, demanding first and foremost indictments of killer cops. It boils down to that. Other issues are discussed, of course. The intersectionality of things. But it begins with the indictment of cops, and we get hardly any. And in Baltimore, of course, just recently we see that there’s not going to be any prospect of any of the cops actually being convicted in the death of Freddie Gray.
So it is this intransigence that pushes black folks as a whole into a corner. And it pushes the individuals across an edge. And we know that this point of inflection has been reached when we see the black former Miss Alabama, a beauty queen, calling Micah Johnson, the man who killed those five cops in Dallas, a martyr. We know that something has happened in the collective black psyche when it’s difficult to get the average black person in the street to issue a blanket denunciation of Micah Johnson, or now of Gavin Long. And there is no reason to believe that this intransigence on the part of the power structure which tells lies instead of reining in these cops, there’s no reason to expect we won’t have further responses such as this, sacrifices such as this, martyrdoms, if you will, such as this.
PERIES: Right. So here we are just ending an administration that had a black president, Barack Obama, a Department of Justice head, Eric Holder, and now Loretta Lynch. And here we have three African-Americans in leadership roles who all these years hadn’t even collected data on police shootings and how it’s affecting the black community, which we’ve all known is a problem in this country. In fact, the Guardian newspaper in the UK in 2015 started collecting that data and found that there were 1,134 deaths at the hands of police officers, where almost 15 percent of them were African-Americans.
Now, this kind of negligence, where there’s no other word for it other than that, negligence–you know, how do you begin to address a problem in a country with any policy if you don’t have the data?
FORD: Well, you know, when you don’t have the data it’s not that you just don’t care about the people that you kill in that kind of negligent fashion. I think it’s an affirmative act to cover up the killing, to make it difficult to prosecute the killing, to make it difficult to even make the charge that these mass killings go on, because, well, where’s the evidence?
So no, this is an active kind of police and prosecutorial power establishment conspiracy. You have to call things as they are. A conspiracy among all these different police departments, conspiring to withhold the evidence of their crimes. And they conspire with politicians to suppress legislation that would make them give up, gather and then give up the evidence of their crimes.
And then we have a president who, in Dallas, while he was commiserating with the families of the dead cops there and sanctifying them, told a damned lie and said that these days we don’t have police brutalizing protesters. And just, I think, the day before, that’s exactly what they were doing in Baton Rouge. And I think it’s fair to say that the death of those three cops in Baton Rouge was a direct result of the brutality by the cops in Baton Rouge. And the frustration among black folks, on a larger scale, is in having a black president, that is, the highest office to which blacks can aspire, who does nothing about the basic complaint, which is rein in, indict, those killer cops.
PERIES: All right. Glen, I thank you so much for joining me today, and this very important thing. And I just wanted to correct myself. In that quote I stated from the Guardian, of the 1,134 people that were killed, 15 percent were black men between the ages of 15-34. So there was a lot more blacks in that entire figure, but this was the, 15 percent was between 15-34. Thank you so much for joining us, Glen.
FORD: Thank you.
PERIES: And thank you for joining us on the Real News Network.
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