AUSTIN, Texas — An Austin, Texas, police constable with a violent past as an officer is organizing a “Police Lives Matter” march in opposition to the Black Lives Matter movement, which police supporters blame for the recent death of a Houston-area sheriff’s deputy.
Shannon J. Miles was arrested on Aug. 29 and charged with fatally shooting Harris County Sheriff’s Deputy Darren Goforth on Aug. 28. Miles allegedly shot Goforth 15 times, including in the head and back, after sneaking up on him from behind. In response to the incident, pro-police marches are planned to take place in Houston on Sept. 12 and Austin on Sept. 19.
Although Miles has no known connection to the Black Lives Matter movement and was once found mentally unfit to stand trial for a 2012 assault charge, police officials were quick to make the connection. The Associated Press quoted Harris County Sheriff Ron Hickman as saying that the “dangerous national rhetoric that is out there today … has gotten out of control.”
Fox News and other conservative media sources have also sought to link Black Lives Matter to anti-police violence, with a Fox graphic last month referring to “the Murder Movement.” Last week, Brandon Ellington Patterson, a fellow at Mother Jones, called it part of the “conservative playbook” to undermine the movement, linking it to historic attacks on the civil rights movement of the 1960s.
Organizers of the upcoming “Police Lives Matter” rallies have explicitly adopted this anti-black rhetoric. “This is a Peaceful March letting our nation know how it is supposed to be done with out Looting and Rioting [sic],” reads the Facebook event description for the Houston march, which had about 18,000 people signed up to attend as of Friday afternoon. About 2,800 have signed up for the Austin event, which goes even further in linking Black Lives Matter to law breaking:
“For too long, we have taken for granted that the loud minority of the anti-police movement would just go away. It is our turn to show that the silent majority is fed up with this criminal movement.”
In 2001, Robert Chody, at the time an officer with the Austin Police Department, was charged with the brutal arrest of Marcus Dewayne Frank, a black teenager, who the Austin Chronicle’s Patricia J. Ruland said was as “an exemplary student” at a local high school. Ruland, who noted that the claims against Chody appeared to have “considerable merit,” reported on the disturbing events that unfolded in August 1998, as described in court documents:
“Chody stood accused of beating a much smaller 15-year-old black teenager in East Austin, smashing the youth’s face on the hood of a patrol car, putting him in a ‘full nelson’ (a forceful, immobilizing wrestling hold that places pressure on the neck), triggering a seizure in the terrified youth and bruising his ribs – and finally arresting [Marcus] without apparent probable cause.”
The City of Austin quietly settled the case in April 2001, and Chody resigned from his post that June. He has served as an Austin precinct constable since being elected to the position in November 2008.
Now, Chody is organizing Austin’s “Police Lives Matter” rally and accusing the Black Lives Matter movement of criminal violence. He’s also blocked dozens of potential critics from viewing the event’s Facebook page, including this reporter and many Facebook users who have signed up for an anti-police brutality march and a Black Lives Matter Austin rally scheduled for the same day as the Austin pro-police rally.
Supporters of the Black Lives Matter movement and other groups that have formed in response to the brutal slaying of Mike Brown and other unarmed Americans continue to insist that they oppose violence. DeRay McKesson, a well-known St. Louis-based organizer, said in a social media posting that it is “sad that some have chosen to politicize this tragedy by falsely attributing the officer’s death to a movement seeking to end violence.”
Out Of The Flames Of Ferguson, a Houston-based group formed to “spread the spirit of Ferguson,” concurred in an open letter published on Tumblr last week. Rather than blaming Black Lives Matter, the group suggests it is more appropriate to blame “daily acts of police violence, harassment and humiliation” against minorities:
“What the [Harris County district attorney] sees as a ‘senseless’ and ‘unprovoked’ act, we understand as the inevitable result of life under white supremacy.”
They also accused officials and pro-police activists of hypocrisy by focusing on these rare acts of violence against police while ignoring the hundreds of people killed already this year by police, including a man shot in Bexar County, Texas, a day after Goforth’s death. :
“Where is the outrage and indignation when they regularly beat, degrade and murder black and brown people in the streets of Houston? Where was their shock a day later when a Latino man was gunned down by police in San Antonio while his hands were raised in the air?”