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Cops and activists both concerned about Dallas shootings fallout

A police officer talks with a boy at the memorial at Dallas Police Department headquarters on Friday. | AFP / Getty Images

In the wake of the shootings of five police officers at a Dallas protest, the head of the Chicago Police department’s largest union Friday decried “rhetoric” that might have inflamed anti-police sentiment. And the head of a Chicago-based activist group worried that the tragedy in Dallas would hijack the momentum of a national movement to reform American law enforcement.

Chicago Fraternal Order of Police President Dean Angelo said that there has been a “rush to judgment” by the public after scenes of the deaths of black men at the hand of police this past week spread through the media — the video of Alton Sterling’s fatal struggle with two Baton Rouge police officers on Tuesday, and footage of Philando Castile bleeding to death after he was shot during a traffic stop in suburban Minneapolis late Wednesday.

The climate of outrage, Angelo said, was likely a contributing factor in the shootings, which authorities have said may have been the work of a lone gunman, Micah Xavier Johnson, a 25-year-old black Dallas man who reportedly told police he “wanted to kill white people, especially white (police) officers.”

Dean Angelo, president of the Fraternal Order of Police.  | Sun-Times file photo
Dean Angelo, president of the Fraternal Order of Police. | Sun-Times file photo

“A lot of the rhetoric and language that has gone back and forth, and the basis of support coming from municipalities that these officers are employed by also doesn’t help,” Angelo said Friday. “There’s a lot of variables, obviously, and a lot of that is the lunatic involved (who) actually pulled the trigger … some people don’t need much to give them a reason.”

But Charlene Carruthers, lead activist with the Chicago-based Black Youth Project, said her group and other organizations leading protests have never called for violence against police, and worries that the Dallas killing will discredit the work of her group and others to demand sweeping reform of the criminal justice system that has been stoked by outrage of fatal police encounters.

Friday, Black Youth Project’s Facebook page featured a a statement titled “Defense of Black Rage and Black Resistance.”

Charlene Carruthers, national director of the Black Youth Project 100. | Sun-Times file photo
Charlene Carruthers, national director of the Black Youth Project 100. | Sun-Times file photo

“We understand the violence that occurred in Dallas to reflect the violence that is all too common in America,” Carruthers said in an interview. “This confirms to us that we have more work to do in black communities to really envision what safety looks like.”

Angelo said officers on the street in Chicago are worried about more violence against police. The Chicago Police Department announced that officers will be required to patrol two-per-car and remain in pairs to enhance visibility and safety this weekend.

Black Youth Project, usually among the most active groups in planning mass demonstrations, had not planned any protests for the weekend, a spokeswoman said.

Carruthers said her group is concerned that the Dallas shootings will be used to justify a crackdown on groups like Black Youth Project and Black Lives Matter, and on future protests.

“We are concerned with how the state and the police can use the violence that occurred in Dallas to increase violence and to increase surveillance,” she said.