There will many precarious consequences emanating from the Dallas attack tonight. News media are already hyping the need for increased militarism among police, and the “unfortunate” necessity that protest is going to be much more dangerous, that it will “change tonight.” The language of warfare and terrorism is already saturating the narratives, of course.
But as natural as this will seem, the truth is that peaceful protest is only more critical after tonight. We cannot give up our crucial, foundational right to gather and speak out. The nightmarish murders *of* police officers has suddenly displaced the nightmarish murders *by* police officers. Media will be looking for stories of police heroism; that’s only appropriate and I am sure there will be ample and honorable coverage. This is a genuine tragedy, both in personal terms, and one that authentically endangers the just functioning of our democracy.
At the same time, we absolutely cannot cede our civic power, the people’s right to call out and to criticize, for example, the broader issues that dominated our attention just 24 hours ago. Police and activists need to work closely in the future—as they were in Dallas—so that we can continue to exercise this fundamental American right. We know from 9/11 and other incidents that at fraught moments like these, civil liberties are at risk. We have an obligation to firmly reject the “obvious” conclusions that media and reactionary politicians will use to quiet our voices.