The Desecration of Fallen Officers

The disturbing underreported aspect of Black Lives Matter's war on police.

An underreported aspect of the war on police is the widespread desecration of fallen officer memorials throughout the country. The increase in vandalism of police memorials directly corresponds to the increase in anti-police movements and protests. Since the formation of the Black Lives Matter Movement memorials honoring officers killed in the line of duty have been attacked in Philadelphia, Chicago, Fresno, Denver, New Orleans, Oakland, Austin, Rochester NY, Covington KY, Fayetteville AR and Raleigh NC. Vandalism has involved everything from graffiti, toppling granite, burning to destroying a metal torch in order to extinguish the eternal flame. Fallen firefighter, 911, Veteran and Confederate memorials have also been vandalized. Dozens of confederate monuments across the country were attacked in the summer 2015 during the confederate flag controversy, many spray painted with the words black lives matter.

In July 2015 there was an escalation in the destruction of fallen officer monuments. The first week of July in Denver, Colorado a sign on East Colfax memorializing fallen Officer Merle Nading who was killed in the line of duty in 1971 was sprayed with red paint. On July 14, 2015 a granite police memorial that had almost 30 names engraved on it in Covington, Kentucky was toppled and broken into several pieces. On July 21, 2015 in Rochester, New York a blue and white wooden cross honoring the death of Rochester Police Officer Daryl Pierson, 32, who was fatally shot in the line of duty, was set on fire and destroyed. Written on the cross, located near the location where Pierson was killed, was the date of Pierson’s death and “EOW” signifying “End of Watch.” On July 26, 2015 the New Orleans fallen officer memorial located at Lake Lawn Metairie Cemetery was vandalized the night after NOPD Officer Vernell Brown Jr. 47, was laid to rest there. Officer Brown, a 17-year NOPD veteran, died July 17, five days after he was hit by a car while assisting a motorist on U.S. Interstate 90. The centerpiece of the Louisiana Law Enforcement Officer Memorial, a 70 pound metal torch housing the gas powered eternal flame, was pried off and destroyed.

In Denver, Philadelphia and Fresno officer memorials located in front of police stations were vandalized during demonstrations. On June 17, 2015 outside the 35th Police District headquarters in North Philadelphia, the words DA PIG PEN and FUCK CHUCK, a reference to police Commissioner Charles Ramsey, were written on the walls and sidewalks next to a mural memorializing Philadelphia officers Chuck Cassidy, Walter Barclay and Bob Hayes who were gunned down while on duty. Another mural on the police station was vandalized with the words “murderer, terrorist, and traitor” written in chalk above the words “courage, sacrifice and loyalty” below paintings of fallen officers John Pawlowski and Richard Lendell. Activists with the group Philly Coalition for R.E.A.L. Justice, a group calling for justice in the fatal police shooting of Brandon Tate-Brown, were holding a rally outside the station and took credit for the vandalism in an online Flickr page. On December 19, 2014, a few days after the shooting of Tate-Brown, graffiti in West Philadelphia reading “Cop Lives Don’t Matter” was spray-painted on a fence, “Fuck Cops” was sprayed on a church and “PPD Killed Brandon Tate-Brown’ was sprayed on the side of a building. “Cop Lives Don’t Matter” graffiti was also spray painted on a garage door in Old City Philadelphia on May 3, 2015. In August 2015 in South Philadelphia a bronze plaque honoring Officer George Jacobs, 29, who was shot and killed on Snyder Avenue near Broad Street 50 years ago was defaced with green spray paint.

On February 14, 2015 150 protesters marched through the streets of Denver blocking traffic and chanting “Hands up. Don’t shoot.” The demonstration stopped in front of police headquarters where two protesters defaced a memorial to fallen officers with stickers, red paint and messages including “fuck the police”. Officers who witnessed the protesters vandalizing the memorial were commanded not to step in. Although two men were charged with criminal mischief in relation to the vandalism Denver officers were understandably upset and demoralized by the Police Chief and Mayors decision to not intervene. Denver’s policy of restraint not only prevented officers from stopping the vandalism, they also had to stand by while protesters took photos of themselves in front of the desecrated memorial. One photo depicts a female protester in front of the defaced monument giving the middle finger and holding a sign that reads “Police Are Denver’s Biggest Gang’. The paint and stickers were removed but the anti-police photos glorifying lawlessness will live forever on social media.

Iconoclasm is the breaking and destruction of sacred objects and icons of power. Iconoclastic acts are a symbolic diminution of power, a deliberate infliction of shame, a public humiliation, and a loss of face. A classic example of magical thinking expressed in political iconoclasm is that if you destroy the statues of power you topple their control. Enemies must be physically and symbolically broken. The destruction of memorials to officers who died in the line of duty is more than an act of vandalism it is a desecration of the sacred. A sacrilegious act that is intended to defile and debase everything the memorial represents. Targeting fallen officer memorials are symbolic assassinations. Essentially they are denying officers’ dignity in death. By destroying monuments to community heroes, offenders are symbolically attempting to commandeer their valor. Vandals target tributes to heroic officers because they want to appropriate the honor and respect that they think they have been deprived of.

Attacks on fallen officer memorials are the inevitable result of protest movements who emphasize oppression, racism and police brutality. Black Lives Matters messaging methodically inculcates feelings of humiliation, shame, powerlessness and anger in their followers then directs those feelings at law enforcement. The monuments must be destroyed, mutilated and burned because they glorify and praise oppressors who humiliate and mock them.   

Exploiting the frustrations of young people and programming them to be hypersensitive to real or imagined insult is a proven strategy for inciting violence. For angry young people who feel marginalized and disrespected, demonstrations are an opportunity to restore dignity and respect and more significantly alleviate feelings of helplessness and humiliation. The Black Lives Matter Movement recruits vulnerable men and women who are searching for identity, a heroic cause and a sense of purpose, by supplying them with an ideology that targets police as enemy oppressors.

Black Lives Matter propaganda is designed to make followers think their lives have been disrespected, they are deprived of opportunities, their families are subjugated, their friends are wrongfully incarcerated, they are discriminated against and they are being targeted by police. Symbols, myths, loaded language and exploitation of police incidents are all calculated to inculcate feelings of powerlessness that erupt into hatred and anger inciting protest, vandalism and violence. When protests do not sufficiently alleviate frustration they can escalate to acts of vandalism. Destroying symbols of power expiates shame, diminishes humiliation and restores respect. Which is why desecrating police memorials feels good. It is a form of stealing valor. When the vandal is glorified by anti-police movements for defiling monuments he is hijacking heroism.

Symbolic violence often precedes actual violence. The thin line between destruction of symbols of power and the destruction of those in power dissolves. Protesters are no longer content to burn flags, deface memorials and destroy monuments, participants now require blood, flesh, and bones. The memorial to the officer is replaced with an actual officer and an act of iconoclasm escalates to an act of murder. Once fully indoctrinated in the myth of police brutality, followers can desecrate sacred memorials and kill officers without remorse because they consider it righteous slaughter in defense of black lives. Police are the dehumanized enemy who are not people but pigs that must be slaughtered. The writing is on the wall. According to graffiti spray painted in cities across the country ‘cops lives don’t matter’.  For anti-police protesters vandalism, desecration and even murder feels good and righteous.