Aurora police advance at City Center Park in Aurora during a protest on June 27, 2020, in response to the death of Elijah McClain at the hands of Aurora police. (Photo by John Moore)
The protests that appeared in cities and towns across America after Minneapolis police killed the unarmed George Floyd have led to many reforms of law enforcement. But another outcome is a backlash in which self-appointed police defenders have become increasingly hostile not just to reforms but also, paradoxically, to the police. This malign force should be recognized for what it is: intellectually empty and harmful to Colorado communities.
It broke out into mainstream view July 19, during a Law Enforcement Appreciation Day rally at Civic Center in downtown Denver, when a group of pro-police rally-goers were overrun by police-reform counterprotesters. The clash involved verbal and physical altercations, and pro-police rally leaders later accused police commanders of ordering officers to withdraw from the area, leaving rally attendees vulnerable. They reserved their sharpest criticism for Denver Police Chief Paul Pazen.
The most vocal among them was Michelle Malkin, the nationally influential but toxic Colorado Springs pundit whose recent coziness with racists and anti-Semites has earned her rejection even in conservative circles. Days after the rally, also known as Back the Blue, which she attended with Rep. Patrick Neville, the state House minority leader, she appeared on Peter Boyles’ show on KNUS and pilloried the police.
“I certainly did not anticipate the violent chaos that ensued, and I certainly didn’t expect police officers to just stand there and watch it all happen,” Malkin said.
She rejected recent police-reform protests as “George Floyd derangement syndrome,” and in describing conflict with counterprotesters, she said, “Nothing was done as women who were wearing Trump gear and holding their flags were throttled and strangled by other, brutish women, women all dressed in black and paramilitary gear.” News reports indicate counterprotesters moved into the space of the pro-police rally, but it’s unclear who initiated the isolated physical altercations. Malkin added that the stance of the police that day toward “violent rioters … marks the regime that we certainly live under now, which is not the land of the free and the home of the brave, it is anarcho-tyranny.”
Nick Rogers, president of the Denver police union, was also on Boyles’ show, and he claimed to have been informed, without saying by who, that officers were ordered to withdraw from the area where the clash occurred. Denver police have declined to comment on this accusation, citing “pending litigation.”
But the pro-police pretensions of the Law Enforcement Appreciation Day participants are undercut by an inconvenient fact. As rally organizer Randy Corporon himself has acknowledged, Pazen had asked him to reschedule or move the pro-police rally, because the chief feared, justifiably, it could lead to trouble. But Corporon, Malkin, Neville and the other rally ring-leaders went ahead with it anyway, thereby proving the event had nothing to do with appreciation and everything to do with provocation. Then, when the feared conflict inevitably occurred, they wailed about the cops’ lack of gratitude. It was like they invited themselves over when the host said it’s not a good time, caused a scene, complained about the hospitality, stormed out in a huff and left the host to clean up the mess. Everyone has the right to assemble. Just be honest about your motives.
Malkin was at it again when on Aug. 3 Black Lives Matter demonstrators marched to the neighborhood they believed to be home to a Colorado Springs police officer involved in the fatal shooting of 19-year old Black man De’Von Bailey on the one-year anniversary of the incident. “Colorado Springs police sat by and did nothing on Monday night as a residential neighborhood was shut down by cop-hating provocateurs,” Malkin wrote, adding with approval that a group of armed civilians arrived to “protect” the neighborhood. “Lock, load and lean on each other,” Malkin wrote.
No one is served, least of all local police, by allusions to an armed vigilante response to Americans exercising constitutional rights.
Malkin has drawn opprobrium on the right since aligning herself with white supremacist Nick Fuentes and the so-called groypers. Yet she is welcomed as a friend by many prominent Colorado conservatives, including George Brauchler, attorney for the 18th Judicial District-slash-entertainer, who has a radio show on KNUS. He conducted a fawning interview of Malkin on Aug. 1, during which he wondered out loud whether “the ‘success’ of these rioters and the more aggressive violent protesters is the product of this black swan-like event, where we have a pandemic that has freed up, good or bad, a whole bunch of people to not have to go into the office, we’re providing a huge subsidy for people from the government to free them up to do god knows what.”
Later, in answer to a question about the November election, Malkin said, referring to the right, “We need to be tougher, and that was the lesson too, as well, of the Back the Blue chaos in Denver, we have to be prepared, we have to be armed.” Brauchler did not challenge her.
Malkin and her sympathizers are no friends of the police. They are a danger to the police. And they are not merely a conservative counterpoint to police-reform protesters. The protesters who flooded streets in June and continue to demand reform are inspired by justified anger at the institutional racism inherent in American police departments, a condition even many law enforcement officials acknowledge and which the Malkin mob never mentions. The critical distinction is that the protesters essentially want police to do their job, which is to protect and serve all people equally. The “pro-police” agitators demand a double standard from law enforcement, and they condition their friendship on receipt from police of special favors.
The purported source of their outrage is the perception that officers aren’t responding aggressively enough against Black Lives Matter protests. How do they suppose that measures up to the outrage accumulated after so many Black lives have been lost to police brutality?
Too often the people who declare themselves pro-police are really pro-entitlement, and they prefer a status quo that deprives many community members of just policing. When they offer appreciation, the police should respond thanks, but no thanks.
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