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Saturday, March 20, 2010

Know Your History

Sometimes at My Masonic Apron, we have to get a little serious. It's not my favorite thing to do, but every now and then it has to be done. I know this is generally regarded as a "funny" blog, and that's nice, but I feel like I cover myself in the description at the top of the blog:

"A blog where those who are lost come to be found, not necessarily found out. A blog where you can be silly, and expect the same in return. An occasionally serious place, a constantly changing place. It's your Happy Place, and mine. So, let's put on our aprons and let's get busy."

Well, something's going on in California and it warrants a little bit of occasional seriousness. If this isn't your scene today, come back tomorrow, when I'll probably be posting some wry commentary about politicians' sexy daughters or lambasting people who post videos of their hamsters parading around on YouTube wearing Barbie doll-sized underpants.

Somebody is out for blood in Riverside County, California. They're out for blue blood. And when I say "blue blood," I'm not talking about the wealthy, elite blood of the cognac-sipping, incestuous, clenched-jaw WASP variety. I'm talking about the blood of cops.

Some maniac, or some maniacs, is/are setting boobytraps in the hopes of killing a police officer-- or lots of police officers. The first attack was an attempt to turn the Gang Enforcement Unit's headquarters into a concentration camp death chamber. A hole was drilled into the ceiling and a natural gas pipe was inserted with the gas on. Fortunately, officers smelled the stink and the building was evacuated.

A little while later, when an officer opened the steel gate to enter headquarters, a contraption that had been rigged and set went off, and a bullet was fired, missing his head by only eight inches. The only reason he wasn't killed was because the gate was tricky to open, and he had his body turned a bit to one side.

Another officer was targeted. While stopping at a convenience store, someone attached a bomb to his patrol car.

Understandably, officers are on-edge. They're checking their rearview mirrors while driving home from their shifts to make sure they're not being followed. They're extra cautious when approaching civilians, or when they're being approached. The mood has been described as "tense." And tense people who are constantly justified in feeling that they are threatened, tense people with guns is not a good thing. Whomever is doing this is creating an atmosphere that could get innocent civilians killed, simply because the police don't know who is behind these assassination attempts (and that's exactly what these are-- assassination attempts) and they are seriously ramped up.

I hate throwing the "T" word around, but it essentially is terrorism. Any time someone is attempting to manipulate the psyche of another person through violence or threat or fear of violence: that's terrorism.

Ironically, what bothered me most about this particular story isn't that someone's out there trying to kill cops. Someone, somewhere, is always going to be trying to do that. And there are lots of reasons people strike out against police officers-- hatred and mistrust of authority, they're caught with their back against the wall, they refuse to go back to jail, they're on drugs or insane... whatever the reason, as long as there are cops there will be cop-killers.

What bothered me most about this story was a comment made by Attorney General Jerry Brown.

"It is incredible and I think unprecedented that police officers in the line of duty could be subjected to these kind of terrorist attempts on their lives."

Think again, sir.

I don't know about you, but, when I was taught about the Civil Rights Movement in high school, it was covered in a day, maybe a day-and-a-half. We learned about Selma, Martin Luther King, the Montgomery Bus Boycott and that was pretty much it. Nobody mentioned the Black Panthers, and they certainly didn't mention the Black Liberation Army, which was a violent off-shoot of the Black Panthers. Beginning in 1970, the BLA participated in numerous attacks, assassination attempts and successful assassinations of police officers all across the country. This is nothing unprecedented. This is nothing new.

* October 22, 1970: As thousands of police officers congregated inside a church for the funeral for slain San Francisco Police Officer Harold Hamilton, a bomb inside the church, planted by the BLA, exploded. Nobody was seriously injured.

* May 19, 1971: NYPD Patrolmen Thomas Curry and Nicholas Binetti tried to stop a vehicle that had been deliberately traveling the wrong way down a one-way street past their police car. When the patrol car pulled up alongside the suspect vehicle, the officers were fired upon by a machine gun. Both officers were hit multiple times and their patrol car careened into a statue. Curry and Binetti were disabled for life.

* May 21, 1971: NYPD Patrolmen Waverly Jones, black, and his partner, Joseph Piagentini, white, had just finished answering a call for help at the Colonial Park Apartments in Harlem. It was a little after 10:00pm. They were shot to death from behind as they walked together back to their patrol car. Jones, 33, was killed instantly. Piagentini was mercilessly shot 13 times in the back, with the assailants' guns, and with his partner's gun. He died in the backseat of a patrol car that tried to get him to Harlem Hospital.

* August 29, 1971: San Francisco Police Sergeant John V. Young is shotgunned to death while sitting in his police station by members of the BLA.

* January 27, 1972: NYPD Patrolmen Gregory Foster, black, and his partner, Rocco Laurie, white, were walking their beat along Avenue B when they were murdered in the exact same way as Jones and Piagentini had been-- shot repeatedly in the back. They were turned over and an eyewitness heard one assailant yelling, "Shoot them in the balls!" Laurie, 22, was shot in the groin. Gregory Foster, 23, had both of his eyes shot out.

Had enough yet? Closer to my home, more nutjubs were hard at work. A group that called themselves "The Revolutionaries" got into the act, too. On August 29, 1970, Fairmount Park Police Department Sergeant Frank Von Colln was sitting at his desk talking on the phone when gunmen walked into his small stationhouse and shot him five times, killing him. Von Colln's revolver was inside his desk drawer. Two other Philly officers were shot and wounded that same day.

It goes on and on and on.

If you think it is just a sepia-hued memory of faded headlines, you're wrong. In Seattle, a police officer was gunned down and brutally killed while just sitting in his car. In Alaska, another officer was writing a report in his patrol car when a vehicle pulled up alongside him and the Anchorage officer was shot five times. Unprecedented? Please.

And I find it distressing, irritating, and shameful that people involved in the law and in law enforcement in 2010 have no concept of the history of violent attacks on police officers carried out by bigots, maniacs, and other so-called "revolutionaries" who think the only way to send a message or institute a change is by shooting someone in the back or blowing them up. In America, we don't have very long histories, and as such we have no excuse for not knowing our history.

Here's a little tip, Mr. Attorney General: nothing is unprecedented. It's all been done before.


  1. I guess, with a history like that security measurements could have been taken but then I wonder: what could have been done? You can't go around always protecting yourself; policemen can't be walking around wearing bulletproof armor all over their body.

    I think it's sick there are people doing such things, but then there will always be sick people wandering our planet. Whatcha gonna do, you know?

    As for the Attorney General, I doubt if he should have known about such assassination attempts in terms of "history". Perhaps he could have read up on it before making a statement, but history consists of a range of events and occurrences, and, although it has been done before, it has an incidental air to it. The examples you mention all date from the 70s; it's not like this has been a reoccuring problem every day for the last couple of decades, in contrary to, say, rape or child molestation. What I'm trying to say is: history is so broad that it is impossible to know every threat or problem by heart, particularly when the problem in question doesn't occur as often as many others do. So cut the man some slack I'd say.

  2. I think it's awful to think that there are people who, because they want to do things that are illegal, dangerous, and basically a waste of a human brain, think it's perfectly acceptable to attack another person, let alone a person who's job it is to protect us from them. I mean, I'm sure these people aren't happy about getting arrested with applicable jail/prison time, but at the turn of the dime, they want help when they feel wronged. I'm sure they'd just pop a cap in my ass if I rear ended them anyways. It's really ridiculous. And I think as whole communities people would rather not make waves and stand up to the gangs and what not that make it a living hell for everyone else. I get that. It's not right- but I understand not wanting to be murdered on the street because you called about the drug dealers down the road. But I think until regular ol' citizens start standing up for ourselves, our families, our communities- nothing will change. And that? Is really the saddest part of it all.

  3. You are right when you say nothing is unprecedented. As a history teacher it amazes me how many times events throughout history are repeated. They say that we can learn from our history for a reason. It's heartbreaking to hear that men and women who put their lives on the line for the safety of the public have to worry about being targeted.


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