Washington, DC (TFC) – The country is in upheaval. There are weekly protests. Civil Rights is the topic of the day. Armored cars are in every community. Those attempting to force a peace use tear gas to disperse crowds. There’s mass incarceration. There is sporadic violence aimed at those enforcing the law. They are killed in assassination-style ambushes. There have been a couple of riots. A group of citizens feels they are treated as second class. The government does not represent them. There are peaceful marches demanding reform. While all of this sounds very familiar, it isn’t today. It isn’t the United States.
It is Northern Ireland. In 1972, the situation was identical to the US today. The small area sat under British rule and was in the fourth stage of the cycle of insurgency; just like the United States is today. It only needed the spark. That spark came on January 30. A civil rights march in Derry was denied the ability to march along their selected route. While most of the marchers engaged in nonviolence and simply began giving speeches near the British barricades, some threw rocks at British troops. A shot rang out. Then another. Then more. When the smoke cleared, 14 unarmed people lay dead or dying. There were another 14 wounded who would later recover. This incident was labeled as Bloody Sunday and became the rallying cry against British rule.
“The Troubles” in Northern Ireland had just begun. From the second the first shot was fired through the streets of Derry that day, it was no longer a civil rights movement. It was war. The IRA was in charge. Young men and women, some who didn’t care about politics at all prior to the shooting, flocked to fill the ranks of the IRA. In the cycle of violence that followed more than 3000 people died. The violence continued for a quarter of a century before a peace deal was struck. That peace deal is falling apart as we speak.
This is where we sit in the United States. We are on the very edge. Police must reform before a series of unfortunate events triggers violence on a level we haven’t seen sine the 1800s. The triggering event could happen this afternoon. There are protests almost daily, and one cop could set off a series of events that will kill thousands. The street cops are the key to avoiding this. They must begin to pressure the Fraternal Order of Police to lobby for policy changes. The FOP does not care about the officers it claims to represent. The officers must put pressure on the organization to begin enacting changes that will stop officers from being the targets. Officers must refuse to enforce unjust laws.
If you want Americans to stop viewing you as an occupying army, you have to stop simply following orders. You have a moral and ethical responsibility to do so. The activist community has done everything it can to resolve this peacefully, when the violence starts in earnest and a “war on cops” really does start, it will be your own fault.
If you want to see how quickly things can turn from peaceful march to civil war, Bloody Sunday is currently available on Netflix.