In one of the worst mass police shootings in the history of the United States of America, snipers shot dead five police officers and wounded six others during a protest against police brutality in Dallas. A suspect was reportedly killed in a shootout with the police, who placed Dallas on lockdown while they conducted "extensive" sweeps of the city centre amidst reports of bombs planted downtown.
The shootings, which the Dallas police described as a "terrorist incident," sparked chaotic scenes of people running for their lives during a march by several hundred demonstrators to protest the fatal shootings this week of two black men by police elsewhere in the country.
After a protracted standoff, during which police traded fire with the suspect at a downtown garage, the CNN cited a police source as saying one suspect was killed, although some local media outlets said that he had shot himself. CNN reported that a SWAT team of elite police marksmen and bomb-sniffing dogs had been deployed to the scene and stun grenades were used.
President Barack Obama, in a statement from Warsaw in Poland, called it a "vicious, despicable and calculated" attack. It was the single biggest loss of lives for law enforcement in America, since the 11 September, 2001 attacks, and appeared likely to further strain the already tense race relations in the country. A civilian was also reportedly wounded.
Speaking in Warsaw, where he is attending a Nato summit, Obama said that multiple suspects had targeted the officers. "There has been a vicious, calculated and despicable attack on law enforcement," Obama told reporters. "Let's be clear. There is no possible justification for these kinds of attacks or any violence against law enforcement."
What was deafening though was the silence from the Democrat and Republican presumptive Presidential nominees Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump respectively. The two politicians, who have rarely missed a chance to turn any world event into an opportunity to 'snipe' at each other, had absolutely nothing to say on the shocking developments that happened throughout Thursday (and continued till Friday morning), and which ended up with the shooting of five police officers.
Well, that's not factual actually. After almost 12 hours of the ordeal in Dallas ended, Donald Trump tweeted:
Prayers and condolences to all of the families who are so thoroughly devastated by the horrors we are all watching take place in our country
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 8, 2016
Very unlike Trump, isn't? There are no cuss words. There is no racism. And it is not offensive.
The subiminal tone of their tweets spoke loudly enough for people to understand that the two front-runners are playing it extremely safe. Commenting on racial tension in the US, and especially in the southern states of the country, is like playing with fire. And Trump and Clinton know better than to turn the killings of the five police officials and the two black men into a political slugfest.
The protests, which initially started out as peaceful ones, against the killing of two black men — Alton Sterling in Louisiana and Philando Castile in Minnesota (both caught on video) — quickly escalated into violent demonstrations. Multiple media outlets reported that shots were fired on Thursday night during a Dallas protest over the killings. In no time, reports poured in about how alleged snipers shot at 11 police officials. And by early Friday morning, five police officials were confirmed dead, and six were reported to be injured.
Reactions poured in from everyone — Dallas Police Department chief David Brown, Dallas Police Major Max Geron, Mayor Mike Rawlings, Texas Governor Greg Abbott — and, of course, President Barack Obama. Ironically, there was not a single peep from either Hillary or Trump on the issue.
— Greg Abbott (@GregAbbott_TX) July 8, 2016
— Dallas Police Depart (@DallasPD) July 8, 2016
Even Hollywood reacted to the brazen shooting, which the Dallas police said was a planned execution.
— Mark Ruffalo (@MarkRuffalo) July 8, 2016
Fear of alienating black voters
Why have Hillary and Trump taken an understated route for the Dallas shooting? It's simple, isn't it? They want to keep everyone happy. Trump and Clinton cannot afford to antagonise either the black voters or can they not support the law enforcement officials.
Let's take Hillary Clinton for example: Black politicians, in the past, have endorsed her. They have lined up in droves, eager to prove their loyalty. In fact, the black population has been quite faithful to the Clintons, for as long as 1992, when Bill Clinton was running for President. In fact, Hillary Clinton had a strong African-American population backing her in the Michigan, Ohio and Florida primaries.
And do we need to say anything about Donald Trump at all? The reality television tyrant, who became the Republican nominee on a wave of support from angry, white men, and by tapping into their racial anxiety and feeding their egos by giving them common enemies to attack, hardly has any grounds to even make a pitch for the black community.
The Dallas shooting was tricky that way. It started off as a pro-people and anti-establishment protest, but soon (extremely soon) escalated into a massacre, which put the people on the backfoot, so much so that the two black men, shot dead by the police, were forgotten by the end of the day.
It is not so much about taking sides as much it is about taking a stand. And as the two eye the job of the President of the United States of America, they need to spread the message that they are serious about issues such as racial crimes — a harsh reality in the US.
Hillary Clinton, till now, has run an almost 'Seinfeldian' campaign that hasn't seemed to be about anything, other than the campaign itself. Unlike Donald Trump, the presumptive Democratic nominee has real policy ideas — but there's no broader mission behind her candidacy, no sense of purpose higher than Clinton's own advancement, which she justifies with her deep political knowledge and experience. Any smart politician would have taken this opportunity to stand by those killed in the shooting and yet avoid taking sides.
It's time both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton rise above their petty politics and act as serious responsible leaders who want to lead one of the leading powers of the world.
First Published On : Jul 8, 2016 19:21 IST