Mike Levine et al., ABC News, November 17, 2014
As the nation waits to hear whether a Missouri police officer will face charges for killing unarmed teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., the FBI is warning law enforcement agencies across the country that the decision “will likely” lead some extremist protesters to threaten and even attack police officers or federal agents.
Peaceful protesters could be caught in the middle, and electrical facilities or water treatment plants could also become targets. In addition, so-called “hacktivists” like the group “Anonymous” could try to launch cyber-attacks against authorities.
“The announcement of the grand jury’s decision . . . will likely be exploited by some individuals to justify threats and attacks against law enforcement and critical infrastructure,” the FBI says in an intelligence bulletin issued in recent days. “This also poses a threat to those civilians engaged in lawful or otherwise constitutionally protected activities.”
Still, the bulletin’s conclusions were blunt: “The FBI assesses those infiltrating and exploiting otherwise legitimate public demonstrations with the intent to incite and engage in violence could be armed with bladed weapons or firearms, equipped with tactical gear/gas masks, or bulletproof vests to mitigate law enforcement measures.”
The bulletin cites a series of recent messages threatening law enforcement, including a message posted online last week by a black separatist group that offered “a $5,000 bounty for the location” of Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson, who fired the shots that killed Brown on Aug. 9.
In a recent interview with ABC News, Philadelphia Police Chief Charles Ramsey said people in “communities of color” often “don’t view us as people who really have the right to enforce laws or tell them what to do,” and sometimes it’s because of “the way they’ve seen us conduct ourselves in the past.”
“Not all cops, but all it takes is one,” Ramsey said. “As human beings, we tend to remember the one bad incident, not the 10 good ones that we may have experienced.”
On the other side of the spectrum, there are some uncomfortable facts that may be influencing how some police respond to African-Americans they encounter on routine patrols.
In particular, African-Americans are disproportionally represented in crime. According to the FBI, 4,379 blacks were arrested for murder last year, while 3,799 whites were arrested for murder–even though census numbers show there are six times more whites than blacks in the United States.
But as Ramsey said, crime statistics are no excuse for police bias.