In this Dec. 4, 2014, file photo, protesters carry signs criticizing the police, and replicas of coffins during a march over the Brooklyn Bridge to protest a grand jury's decision not to indict the police officer involved in the death of Eric Garner, in New York.Photo: AP
“What do we want?” drones the blood chant.
“Dead cops!” comes the reply.
Thus does rhetoric have consequences.
There may have been just a single shooter in Bedford-Stuyvesant on Saturday afternoon. But New York’s failure to denounce without nuance the bloodlust that’s been boiling out of the corners of the Eric Garner-Michael Brown demonstrations for weeks now boils down to this:
There is blood on many hands this morning.
Yes, First Amendment. Yes, redress of grievances. Yes, peaceful protests — even as clogged bridges and mobbed boulevards created, however temporarily, very real peril for tens of thousands of New Yorkers every night for a week.
The free-speech trope is so obviously true that it’s a deflection even to raise it.
Here’s the real issue: It was, and it remains, the responsibility of protest organizers — such as they may be in the face of ubiquitous social media — to directly address murderous incantations, to unequivocally condemn those who call down harm on the city’s protectors.
And they didn’t do that.
Moreover, when two of the six people who “allegedly” attacked two cops on the Brooklyn Bridge a week ago Saturday night turn out to be, respectively, a CUNY professor and an organizer for a union that placed five one-time senior union leaders in top de Blasio administration posts, it’s clear that New York isn’t dealing with bearded Bolsheviks living in caves.
Violence against cops has gone mainstream — that is, violent threats to society itself can manifest virtually without a soul among the city’s elected leaders saying so much as boo.
The cops understand all this, of course. They get the threat. They are steeped in the department’s institutional memories of other cops, executed from ambush in similar circumstances. They know its tradition of reflexive heroism under deadly threat — and they are proud it its record: Not perfect, of course, but better than anyone else’s.
And now this.
Who would have thought that PBA President Pat Lynch’s don’t-come-to-my-funeral petition would have become so relevant, so prescient, so tragically right to the point.
There will be time to count the political consequences of Saturday’s cowardly murders.
They will be substantial.
The city’s cut-the-baby-in-half approach to the Garner-Brown protests — genuflect to the PBA, confer with the most rhetorically irresponsible of the protesting groups, rinse, repeat — lent an air of moral equivalence to the events leading up to Saturday’s savagery.
Nobody knows what was in the shooter’s mind, of course; happily, he relieved society of the responsibility of trying to find out with a well-placed bullet to his own head.
But anybody who thinks he wasn’t emboldened by City Hall’s placidity in the face of nihilistic, bloodthirsty incantations is delusional.
And anyone who believes that the city’s decision not to draw a high-profile line — even if only symbolically — after the “alleged” Brooklyn Bridge attacks was not empowering to the shooter is equally wrong.
Was the shooter crazy? Define crazy. The city is full of crazies. And none of them needs to be encouraged in their psychoses — certainly not by the suggestion that official New York thinks they somehow may have a point.
It’s wrong to blame the protests wholly for the actions of one person — up to a point.
That is, right up to the point when the protesters began to demand dead cops — and nobody put a stop to it.
Right up to the point where protesters began to drop full garbage cans 10 feet down on unsuspecting cops, and nobody took it for what it was: An escalation that culminated in yesterday’s Bed-Stuy executions.
And now for the funerals — for the heartbreaking skirl of the pipes and the agony of the families; for the grim-faced officers from across America, lined to the horizon in silent tribute to ambushed brothers; for the folded flags and the endless motorcades to the cemetery.