By Ed Gray, NDG Senior Columnist
July 7th a dark day in which truth was ambushed. This day stands out as policemen were assassinated mere blocks away from where a United States President was assassinated. We became united in our grief because under attack we are all under attack. However it is a day that not only has defined a moment in time, it has defined a city.
That July evening in Dallas stands out to me because many of political activist friends had to practice the duck and cover rule, and it was not a drill. This march was a demonstration of freedom of speech, and freedom of assembly, but in a blinding moment, it was deemed a catalyst for an ambush against the police. In Dallas, we seem to have selective amnesia about July 7, 2016.
We color the events of July 7th through the lens of what we want to believe happened, and our own political beliefs. Depending on your personal beliefs, political leanings, or social status, many view the events of July 7th as a one size fits all when in reality the truth is as elusive as a cool breeze on a July evening.
The truth is several people were embattled that evening. The dominant narrative from many is protesters were rallying against police shootings, a police shooting occurred, many policemen lost their lives, and Dallas Police Chief David Brown was a courageous and calming presence. This has become the dominant narrative, the reality is truth was ambushed.
Among the embattled was Chief David Brown, hours later he would emerge as an American hero. Several weeks prior I offered my political commentary against police associations and political opponents demanding his resignation. Chief Brown was politically weakened as many political watchers lamented the fact Dallas police chiefs don’t last long. The truth was ambushed as the Dallas police chief was at his weakest point politically.
Within hours of the shooting, the Dallas presses lead with the headline “Police Ambush in Dallas.” The daily newspaper led a media feeding frenzy painting a narrative of a conspiratorial activist targeting police. Meanwhile, the Dallas Police Department used social media to assassinate the truth by erroneously broadcasting as a shooting accomplice Mark Hughes, a known Dallas activist. In news stories broadcasted around the world, Hughes was misidentified as the shooter, placing his life in jeopardy. The truth was ambushed because a black man was wanted for a crime he did not commit.
The “Next Generation Action Network” was leading an aggrieved party of activists who protested police shootings of unarmed civilians that had been occurring at an alarming rate nationally. Dallas policing through its community-based policing had made strides, but yet it was not perfect. Dallas had its share of unarmed shootings as well. Singing activists and policeman who exchanged high-fives and smiles were written into the narrative after July 7th as adversaries. The truth was ambushed because the activists did not see the police as adversaries.
“Black Lives Matter” was blamed as fomenting unrest in a city that was at peace. When the reality is that much of Dallas-Fort Worth is at unrest with a perceived duality of justice. A justice that indicates that black lives are indeed worthless in comparison to others. The truth was ambushed, as this was a spontaneous reaction to the climate of national unrest precipitated by police shootings. The truth ambushed because citizens have the right to assemble, speak, and protest.
The five policemen who lost their lives are infinitely more important than any opinion piece on the anniversary of July 7th. The seeds of destruction that a lone gunman hatched in his head that led to them losing their lives must forever be vanquished.
Of importance as well is the lost life of Micah Johnson, he was the shooter of this horrific act. Johnson was later identified as suffering from post-traumatic stress syndrome. Mental illness is one of the leading contributors in confrontations with the police. The challenge of all police departments is how to interact with the mentally ill. The police must be sympathetic to the concerns of the mentally ill while simultaneously protecting us all.
A year after the events of July 7th, there have been additional unarmed civilian deaths have led to other protests. Though truth was ambushed, we have not vanquished the catalyst that led to the July 7th protest. The truth was ambushed but it is not dead, the truth of the matter is that we have a lot of work ahead.