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MITCHELL: It’s time for us all to stand with the police

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

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They say there is a silent war between police and black people.

To prove it, they point to the latest incidents captured on video of interactions between black men and white police officers.

Alton Sterling, 37, was fatally shot in Baton Rouge, La., while he was pinned to the pavement by two police officers.

Less than 48 hours later, the aftermath of Philando Castile’s deadly encounter with a police officer in suburban St. Paul, Minn., was videotaped and live streamed to the world.

Although Diamond Reynolds, Castile’s girlfriend, was eerily calm while Castile was bleeding in the seat next to her, and her 4-year-old daughter was in the back seat, her emotions boiled over later, mirroring the frustrations of many.

“These police are not here to protect and serve us,” Reynolds said. “They are here to assassinate us. They are here to kill us because we are black.”

OPINION

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Hours later, at an anti-police brutality protest in Dallas, the unthinkable happened. A sniper shot 12 police officers, killing five of them.

Police used a robotic explosive device to take down the shooter, identified as Micah Xavier Johnson, a 25-year-old Army veteran.

Three other suspects are in custody.

“Our profession is hurting. Dallas officers are hurting. We are heartbroken. There are not words to describe the atrocity that occurred to our city,” David O. Brown, the Dallas police chief, told reporters.

This is a nation starkly divided over policing and race, and most often my sympathies fall on the side of the unarmed citizen.

But the mass shooting of police officers at a peaceful protest struck the same heinous chord as last year’s attack on worshipers in a historic black church in Charleston, S.C.

Nine people were killed inside the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, including state Sen. Clementa C. Pinckney, the church’s pastor.

Dylann Roof, 21, said he was trying to start a race war and confessed to the shootings.

In Dallas, during the standoff with police, the gunman told hostage negotiators he was “upset about the recent police shootings, was upset at white people and wanted to kill white people, especially white officers,” the Dallas police chief told reporters.

That is heartbreaking.

Do we really have to take it back to the chaos of the ’60s to understand the power of Dr. Martin Luther King’s movement?

It was non-violent resistance — not ambushes — that led to the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

More important, when armed shooters start to go after police officers, it puts struggling neighborhoods in even more peril.

Yes, there are brutal officers working on the streets who need to be weeded out of the Chicago Police Department.

And I’m still hopeful that young people leading groups like Black Lives Matter will continue to push for real police accountability.

But how are we to weed out the armed and dangerous people who kill others in our neighborhoods with impunity without the police?

What happened in Dallas will only make it worse for people trapped in neighborhoods under siege by gang-related gun violence.

After all, there already were oncerns that some police officers are being less aggressive because they fear they’ll turn up in the next viral video.

Like a lot of African Americans, I worry that my adult son could get pulled over by a bad cop with a racist attitude and end up a victim.

But I also know that someone living on my block who doesn’t value life could shoot my granddaughter as she’s skipping on the sidewalk.

With the assault in Dallas, the silent war is silent no more.

But we can’t afford to be deceived. What this mass shooter did was not heroic. It was heinous.

If there ever was a time when the community needs to stand with police officers, this is it.

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