Last July, Gavin Long, a black, 29-year-old former Marine, ambushed police in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, killing three officers and wounding three more before being killed. Now one of the wounded, who was rendered permanently disabled in the shooting, has filed a federal lawsuit against the Black Lives Matter movement and activists including DeRay Mckesson and Johnetta Elzie, whom he blames for inciting the attack.
The unnamed police officers’ injuries were so grave, and so grievously unfair, that it’s not hard to understand this officer’s urge to hold someone accountable. But blaming Black Lives Matter is wrong.
Black Lives Matter believes that political activism can change police departments. A suicide note found in Gavin Long’s car advanced a contrary proposition, that only killing cops would bring change. He called his murders a “necessary evil,” writing, “I must bring the same destruction that bad cops continue to inflict upon my people, upon bad cops as well as good cops in hopes that the good cops (which are the majority) will be able to stand together to enact justice & punishment against bad cops b/c right now the police force & current judicial system is not doing so.”
The killer also posted a coded video to YouTube before he acted, stating that “there are no affiliations—I thought my own thoughts, I made my own decisions, I’m the one whose got to listen to the judgment.” The video includes a list of groups with which he associated. Black Lives Matter wasn’t even among those groups. The Washington Post reports that “an exhaustive investigative report determined Long had not attended any of the Black Lives Matter demonstrations in Baton Rouge” following the controversial police killing of Alton Sterling. He “believed protests were a waste of time.”