[Continuing our series on deception in politics and public policy.]
Over the past three decades, Al Sharpton has used deception to make himself rich and powerful.
Sharpton first came to the attention of many New Yorkers in the 1984 case of Bernhard Goetz. Goetz, sitting in a New York City subway car, was surrounded by four robbers, three of whom carried sharpened screwdrivers; he defended himself, shooting them with a .38-caliber pistol, and fled the scene. After a massive manhunt in which the mayor called out 1,350 extra policemen, Goetz, dubbed the “Subway Vigilante,” turned himself in, and Sharpton demanded that the “racist” serve jail time. Goetz was ultimately acquitted on four counts of attempted murder but served eight months for carrying an unlicensed firearm.
“The Reverend Al” became a national figure in 1987, after Tawana Brawley, a 15-year-old African-American girl, was discovered in a garbage bag, smeared in feces and with racial epithets written on her body in charcoal. Brawley claimed to have been raped by six white men, some of whom were police officers. Sharpton led protests and accused several individuals of involvement in the crime, including prosecutor Steven Pagones. He called New York Governor Mario Cuomo (D.) a “racist” and compared state Attorney General Robert Abrams (D.) to Hitler. Brawley’s supporters suggested that the Mafia, the KKK, and the Irish Republican Army may have been involved. The whole thing turned out to be a hoax. Sharpton was sued successfully by those he accused, and his supporters paid the damages.
In 1990, Sharpton strongly supported the efforts of a fellow radical activist, Sonny Carson, who led a boycott of Korean-owned groceries in Brooklyn. The New Republic reported that, during the boycott, “not far from the boycott line, a black teen smashed the skull of a Vietnamese resident with a claw hammer, and his accomplices chanted, ‘Koreans go home.’”
There were the Crown Heights riots, as described by Ben Shapiro of Breitbart News and TruthRevolt.com:
In 1991, after a Chasidic Jew accidentally killed a young black child in a car accident, Sharpton went to Crown Heights, where he spoke at the funeral for the child. There, he said that “diamond merchants” had “blood of innocent babies” on their hands. He also said, “If the Jews want to get it on, tell them to pin their yarmulkes back and come over to my house.” The Crown Heights riots led to the death of Yankel Rosenbaum, an Orthodox Jewish student. Rosenbaum’s brother told TruthRevolt, “He has never apologized, he has never offered any sincere remorse for the atrocious things he has done by way of terrible racist behavior and lies, for inciting racial events. Anybody who takes a look at that person and wants to spend advertising dollars on him should take a hard look at their moral stance in terms of their position in business, in commerce, and in the community.”
In one march after the Crown Heights riots, Sharpton led some 400 protesters through the neighborhood, his followers chanting, “no justice, no peace!” One of the protest banners read: “Hitler did not do the job.” During the riots, an estimated 43 civilians and 152 police officers were injured, in addition to the rabbinical student who was killed by rioters chanting, “Kill the Jew!”
Then there was the case of Freddy’s Fashion Mart, as described by Ben Shapiro:
In 1995, Freddy’s Fashion Mart raised rent on a black-owned music store. That was because Freddy’s Fashion Mart had its own rent raised by a black landlord in Harlem. But that didn’t stop Sharpton from blaming Freddy’s Fashion Mart, accusing them of racism. “We will not stand by and allow them to move this brother so that some white interloper can expand his business,” Sharpton said. Protesters yelled, “Burn down the Jew store.” One of the protesters then shot four employees of Freddy’s and set the store on fire. As [columnist] Jeff Jacoby wrote in 2003, “If Sharpton were a white skinhead, he would be a political leper, spurned everywhere but the fringe.”
The Rev. Sharpton seems to show up whenever the Left needs a good lie—for example, in the case of George Zimmerman, a Florida man of Latino heritage who defended himself from a vicious attack (apparently a mistaken gay-bashing) and was falsely charged with murder.
Then there was Ferguson. Michael Brown, age 18, robbed a convenience store in Ferguson, Missouri, near St. Louis; he roughed up an Indian-American store clerk half his size and walked away. Some ten minutes later, Brown was confronted by a police officer, Darren Wilson, who was on the lookout for the robbery suspect. Brown assaulted Wilson and attempted to take the officers’ gun, which discharged inside the police car. Brown, 6’4” and almost 300 pounds, ran, then turned around and charged the officer. Following an investigation by the Obama Justice Department, the police officer was found to have been entirely justified in shooting Brown. The Justice Department examined all the witnesses, and those whose stories stood up to scrutiny were all African-American, and all backed up Wilson’s version of events.
Yet the tale spread that Brown was shot while holding up his hands in surrender. (That version apparently originated with Brown’s accomplice in the robbery, who was running away and did not actually see the fatal shot fired.) Sharpton and his associates turned the “hands up, don’t shoot” gesture into a symbol for alleged police abuses; it appeared in that context on national magazine covers, was replicated by performers at the Grammy Awards, was seen at Democratic Party meetings and countless protests, and became part of the national culture.
David Hogberg, an alumnus of the Capital Research Center, interviewed Thomas Sowell, the renowned economist at the Hoover Institution, for an article for FrontPage magazine. Sowell, who is African-American, laid much of the blame for violent “protest” at the feet of Sharpton and his close associate, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio.
DH: Some of the protesters in New York City chanted, “What do we want? Dead cops! When do we want it? Now!” To what degree are they responsible for the two cops who were shot to death?
TS: To a degree, they are. If you stir up hostility against a group, in this case police, terrible things are going to happen. Some people express their hostility in words, some in other ways. But you can be sure that across a broad spectrum of people there will be those who will use violence. I love it when the left says that these were peaceful demonstrations in Ferguson that got out of hand. Well, going in, it’s as predictable as the swallows coming back to Capistrano: If you are going to have a mass of people whipped up by demagogues like Sharpton and others, if these people are told that the world is against them, and the protest occurs at night, somebody is going to start doing something violent. And I can’t believe that the people who organized this are so naïve that it has never occurred to them that violence might happen.
DH: To what degree, if any, are people like Al Sharpton and Bill de Blasio responsible for those dead cops?
TS: To a considerable degree because, again, they set the atmosphere. When you go out and stir all of this stuff up, of course you are responsible. You can’t turn this stuff on and off. When you open the floodgates, you can’t tell the water where to go. The ultimate responsibility, obviously, is the man who pulled the trigger. But what I’m saying is that when you set this kind of stuff in motion, you know that violence is a likely outcome.
The likely outcome
In New York City, two police officers, Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos, were shot to death in revenge for the Ferguson incident and for the death of Eric Garner, who died after struggling with police while resisting arrest for selling untaxed cigarettes. The killer posted on Instagram: “I’m putting Wings on Pigs Today … They Take 1 of Ours … Lets Take 2 of Theirs.” When Mayor de Blasio [see Labor Watch, May 2014] visited the hospital where the officers were pronounced dead, and again at one of the funerals, fellow officers turned their backs on the mayor. Some of the officers specifically cited de Blasio’s close relationship with Sharpton in assigning him some of the blame for the revenge killing.
In Ferguson, two St. Louis-area police officers were shot in revenge for Brown’s death, but survived. In Harris County, Texas (Houston), a sheriff’s deputy was shot execution-style while pumping gas; “Our assumption is that he was a target because he wore a uniform,” said the sheriff, Ron Hickman, who linked the shooting to the anti-cop campaign. Then, as Chuck Ross reported in the Daily Caller:
A Missouri man who shot and killed a Kentucky state trooper during a traffic stop [September 13] was an apparent Black Lives Matter sympathizer who protested in the days after the shooting death of Michael Brown last year and attended the 18-year-old’s funeral, social media posts show.
Joseph Thomas Johnson-Shanks, 25, shot Kentucky State Police Trooper Joseph Cameron Ponder after a high-speed chase on Interstate 24 . . .
Shanks is from Florissant, Mo., a St. Louis suburb near Ferguson, where Brown was fatally shot by police officer Darren Wilson on Aug. 9, 2014. A Facebook account that appears to belong to Johnson-Shanks shows that he took part in the protests that followed the shooting. Pictures show him adopting the “hands up, don’t shoot” pose which became the rallying cry following the shooting. . . .
Johnson-Shanks also snapped photos of civil rights leader Al Sharpton, who rallied in Ferguson following the shooting.
Black Lives Matter, by the way, is the group that seized the stage from a presidential candidate, U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), to demand a moment of silence to honor the robber Michael Brown; that forced another candidate, former Gov. Martin O’Malley (D-Md.), to apologize for insisting that “all lives matter”; that chanted, “Pigs in a blanket, fry ’em like bacon,” during a recent march in Missouri; and that demands the imprisonment of former policeman Darren Wilson, an innocent man. (Ironically, about a dozen BLM members stormed the stage and seized the microphone in December at a protest led by Sharpton. One radical website declared that Sharpton, along with talk show host and entrepreneur Oprah Winfey, are “scared witless that the Black Lives Matter mobilization will become a sustained, independent political movement—one that challenges both the rich white rulers and their junior partners in the Black Misleadership Class.” As often happens in protest movements, the older generation is seen by younger members as insufficiently radical.)
Ultimately, the effect of Sharpton and the Pigs in a Blanket movement is felt not just by police but by all victims of crime. Heather Mac Donald of the Manhattan Institute wrote in the Wall Street Journal:
A virulent antipolice campaign over the past year—initially fueled by a since-discredited narrative about a police shooting in Ferguson, Mo.—has made police officers reluctant to do their jobs. The Black Lives Matter movement proclaims that the police are a lethal threat to blacks and that the criminal-justice system is pervaded by racial bias. The media amplify that message on an almost daily basis. Officers now worry about becoming the latest racist cop of the week, losing their job or being indicted if a good-faith encounter with a suspect goes awry or is merely distorted by an incomplete cellphone video.
With police so discouraged, violent crime has surged in at least 35 American cities this year. The alarming murder increase prompted an emergency meeting of the Major Cities Chiefs Association last month. Homicides were up 76% in Milwaukee, 60% in St. Louis, and 56% in Baltimore through mid-August, compared with the same period in 2014; murder was up 47% in Minneapolis and 36% in Houston through mid-July.
Lies matter. Sometimes lies get people killed. Does Al Sharpton care?