Former President Barack Obama quietly endorsed street “direct action” on Wednesday despite the risk of another huge death toll similar to the crime wave that began after the Ferguson riots in 2014.
“I’ve been hearing a little bit of chatter in the Internet about voting versus protest, politics, and participation versus civil disobedience and direct action,” Obama said June 3, adding:
This is not either/or. This is a both/and. To bring about real change, we both have to highlight a problem and make people in power uncomfortable, but we also have to translate that into practical solutions and laws that can be implemented.
"Let’s do this another way. Let's stop thinking our voice don’t matter and vote. Not just for the president…educate yourself and know who you’re voting for. And that’s how we're going to hit 'em." https://t.co/WX6oLNRtI2
— Barack Obama (@BarackObama) June 1, 2020
In 2014, American murder rates had been declining since the late 1970s. In that mostly peaceful year, just 12,278 Americans were murdered.
But the downward progress reversed after the killing of a young black man, Michael Brown, in Ferguson, Missouri.
The killing took place in August 2014, three months before the November elections. Obama and his allies called for peace — and they also urged that public protest be channeled into politics and the 2014 election. The New York Times reported:
WASHINGTON — With their Senate majority imperiled, Democrats are trying to mobilize African-Americans outraged by the shooting in Ferguson, Mo., to help them retain control of at least one chamber of Congress for President Obama’s final two years in office.
In black churches and on black talk radio, African-American civic leaders have begun invoking the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, along with conservative calls to impeach Mr. Obama, as they urge black voters to channel their anger by voting Democratic in the midterm elections, in which minority turnout is typically lower.
After the election, Obama called for national reform and regulation of state and local police forces. Obama’s calls were accompanied by intense media coverage of police errors and killings, including the Washington Post’s “Fatal Force” of police killings.
In response, police forces in many cities pulled back from the task of policing violent neighborhoods.
In Baltimore, for example, the death of a detained man in April 2015 caused city officials to crack down on the police, who then stepped back from actual policing. Baltimore saw 233 murders in 2013 and 211 in 2014. But after the city officials aligned themselves with the 2015 rioters, the murder numbers jumped to 344 in 2015 and 318 in 2016.
USA Today reported in July 2018:
In the space of just a few days in spring 2015 – as Baltimore faced a wave of rioting after Freddie Gray, a black man, died from injuries he suffered in the back of a police van – officers in nearly every part of the city appeared to turn a blind eye to everyday violations. They still answered calls for help. But the number of potential violations they reported seeing themselves dropped by nearly half. It has largely stayed that way ever since.
Police officials acknowledge the change. “In all candor, officers are not as aggressive as they once were, pre-2015. It’s just that fact,” says acting Police Commissioner Gary Tuggle, who took command of Baltimore’s police force in May.
Some Democrats admitted their party’s role in the “Ferguson Effect.”
“We have allowed our Police Department to get fetal, and it is having a direct consequence,” Chicago’s Democrat mayor, Rahm Emanuel, said during an October 2015 event. “They have pulled back from the ability to interdict. … They don’t want to be a news story themselves, they don’t want their career ended early, and it’s having an impact,” he added.
Obama’s “Ferguson Effect” helped Donald Trump win the 2016 election — especially once the murderers started killing cops in Dallas, New York, and other cites.
After he was sworn into office, Trump quickly ended White House support for the Black Lives Matter movement, and the number of murders tumbled. Media attention shifted elsewhere, to the southern border, and to demands for impeachment, to Trump himself.
The death toll was 15,318 in Obama’s last year. But it fell to 15,195 dead in Trump’s first year, and then down to 14,123 in his second year, according to FBI data.
The good news continued into 2019, according to FBI data released in January 2020. Murder rates dropped by 3.9 percent from the first six months of 2019 compared to the first six months of 2018. Robbery dropped by 7.4 percent, and rape fell by 7.3 percent. Auto theft fell by 6.7 percent, and theft fell by 4.2 percent.
The good news extended to interactions between police and young black men, according to a report by Heather MacDonald in the Wall Street Journal:
The police fatally shot nine unarmed black [men] and 19 unarmed whites in 2019, according to a Washington Post database, down from 38 and 32, respectively, in 2015. The Post defines “unarmed” broadly to include such cases as a suspect in Newark, N.J., who had a loaded handgun in his car during a police chase. In 2018 there were 7,407 black homicide victims. Assuming a comparable number of victims last year, those nine unarmed black victims of police shootings represent 0.1% of all African-Americans killed in 2019. By contrast, a police officer is 18½ times more likely to be killed by a black male than an unarmed black male is to be killed by a police officer.
Trump’s success in curbing the murder wave has saved hundreds of young black men from a violent end.
The decline in the murder rate was accompanied by rapid growth in wages for blue-collar men, including African Americans.
The wages rose because Trump helped grow the economy while rejecting business demands for more labor.
“We are just getting started,” Trump said in his 2019 State of the Union speech. “Wages are rising at the fastest pace in decades and growing for blue-collar workers, who I promised to fight for, faster than anyone else.”
After waiting two years working with the GOP majority in the House, he intervened and shrank the labor supply of blue-collar migrants moving across the Mexican border. The intervention horrified business leaders and progressives, but it allowed a wage boost for blue-collar workers, including many young black men.
“Jobs are booming. Incomes are soaring. Poverty is plummeting,” Trump said in his February 2020 State of the Union speech.
Those wages were set for additional raises until China’s coronavirus paralyzed the economy.
"A lie used by cynical media manipulators and unscrupulous politicians who understand that racial strife — race hatred — is their path to power, even if it destroys the country." https://t.co/LTQm67uZnk
— Mark Krikorian (@MarkSKrikorian) June 4, 2020