Dallas Police Were Standing With, Not Against, #BlackLivesMatter Prior To Shooting

It’s a truly inspiring photo up above this text, isn’t it? Two police officers, one black and one white, flanking a civilian holding a “No Justice, No Peace” protest sign. The officers are showing smiles as big as that of the civilian they’re standing beside, not only in physical space, but metaphorically as well.

The police officers who attended Thursday’s peaceful #BlackLivesMatter protest in Dallas, Texas weren’t wearing riot gear. They weren’t hosing protestors at close-range with pepper spray. They weren’t firing salvos of CS gas into the crowds.

Instead, Dallas’ police officers were posing with protestors, showing their solidarity. They were chanting alongside their friends and neighbors. Officially, they were police. Unofficially, they were protestors as well. And when the Dallas Police Department shared that iconic photograph, they were hoping to prove to a bitterly-divided nation that supporting #BlackLivesMatter and supporting law enforcement are not mutually exclusive ideas.

The protest in Dallas was a pristine example of what every protest in America should always aspire to look like. The protestors were well-behaved, abided by the law, and spoke out emotionally and truthfully, without succumbing to censorship or violence. And the police responded the way police should, showing their community that they appreciate the gravity of their emotional duress, that they understand why tempers are flaring, and that they want to see those same injustices thwarted.

The protestors weren’t there to showcase their hatred of police, but their disgust with systemic racism in law enforcement all across the country. And the police were there to keep the peace, and made several gestures toward solidarity. They understand why people are upset. They understand that they deserve to be upset. And many, if not most, of those officers feel exactly the same way.

That was the scene in Dallas before officers and civilians found themselves running from sniper fire. It was a scene of love, of community, of respect. A scene of civilians and police officers mutually anguished over the senseless brutality of some small minority of police officers who see race as a qualifier for violent force.

The police and the protestors all knew something the sniper (or snipers) failed to comprehend. Something that domestic terrorists tragically can’t grasp. When you answer violence with more violence, the end result is compounded suffering. It doesn’t bring the dead back to us, it doesn’t make the world safer, it doesn’t help us heal. All it does is compound. It makes it worse. It makes the people hurting the most hurt even more.

Yesterday’s tragic attack on Dallas is going to stir up two conversations that America is all too familiar with. We’ve had national debates on police brutality, on systemic racism within law enforcement, and on gun control and the need for stronger, smarter regulation. Both conversations have a tendency to turn into arguments. Both of them together? We need to do this debate a whole lot differently.

As we find ourselves engaging in those same rehashed conversations for the umpteenth time, all of us — progressives and conservatives alike — need to think back on that photograph the Dallas Police Department shared with the world. Of officers standing in solidarity with those they’re sworn to protect. The symbolism of that image might be lost on some, and we can’t help that. But we all need to remember that it’s okay to support #BlackLivesMatter, to be angry about systemic racism throughout our justice system. It’s also okay to support our police, to thank them for the invaluable services they provide to our communities, and to hope and pray for their safety.

Those two things aren’t mutually exclusive. Justice and peace, for civilians and police officers alike? They might just be, given recent events in Texas, Minnesota, and Louisiana. And that’s something America desperately needs to come together on in order to fix.

Featured image courtesy of the Dallas Police Department