Five biker gangs made up of mostly white dudes had a brawl yesterday in Waco, TX. Nine men were killed and at least 18 were injured in the affray. This was not a little rumpus. These were armed criminals shooting and stabbing each other in broad daylight next door to innocent families. Moreover, the gang members also shot at cops. Waco police Sgt. W. Patrick Swanton said that, “This is one of the worst gun fights we’ve ever had in the city limits. They started shooting at our officers … These are very dangerous, hostile criminal biker gangs.”
The oddest thing about the gang-related violence is that almost no one is calling it a riot. It is being referred to in the media as a melee or altercation or a fracas or even as trouble or a disturbance. A hail of bullets is a bit more than a disturbance in my opinion. More than 200 gang members are in the clink, so this was Brobdignagian brannigan that could aptly be described as a riot. Legally, a riot is “a disturbance of the public peace by three or more persons acting together in a disrupting and tumultuous manner in carrying out their private purposes.” So why isn’t this being termed a riot?
Furthermore, why has this prodigious clash of armed and violent men not inspired any police brutality? If ever police brutality was warranted, a hailstorm of bullets from 5 rival biker gangs would justify it. Instead, here’s the survivors chilling by the roadside:
This is, as Salon noted, a sharp contrast to how black violence is portrayed in the media and responded to by law enforcement. The bikers are still being called bikers, or criminals, but not “thugs”.
In contrast, black Americans protesting against police brutality are “thugs” who are rioting. The broken windows and thefts of looting that occurs during riots have been treated as more horrifying than a shootout in a public place adjacent to children done by a bunch of white guys. Here is how police responded to unarmed, nonviolent protesters in Ferguson, Missouri:
The justification for the police response was that some of the protesters were reported to be throwing rocks and bottles. Yes, that is not a good way to protest. But rocks and bottles are NOT the same as cops being shot at. The police were SHOT at during the Waco ‘incident’. Where is the fallout? Where is the pepper spray for the white thugs? These are men who are part of groups who SHOT at cops, why are they not cuffed in paddy wagons?
These media images MATTER because they will perpetuate the myths of who is a “danger” in American society, thus spurring police to overreact to black protesters because they have been enculturated to see black men as dangerous. There is no reason why black men and black protesters should not be treated with the same moderate response as that which the Waco police gave to white criminals.