William Barr Says Communities That Don’t Show More Respect To Cops May Not Get Police Protection

Written by Dana Sanchez
AG Bill Barr’s “police protection” speech sounded like a threat to Black communities and a dog whistle to conservatives, trying to invoke fear ahead of House impeachment hearings. In this Nov. 22, 2019 photo, Barr speaks with members of the press before a law enforcement roundtable at the Flathead County Sheriff’s Posse in Evergreen, Mont. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, File)

U.S. Attorney General William Barr, the top U.S. cop, showed what he thinks of the rule of law when he said that if communities don’t show more respect for law enforcement, they could potentially not get police protection.

Barr made these disturbing remarks while speaking Tuesday at the Attorney General’s Award for Distinguished Service in Policing, Huffington Post reported.

The speech sounded like a threat to some communities and a dog whistle to others, trying to invoke fear ahead of the House Judiciary Committee’s first impeachment hearings Wednesday.

“They have to start showing, more than they do, the respect and support that law enforcement deserves,” Barr said. “And if communities don’t give that support and respect, they might find themselves without the police protection they need.”

The Justice Department did not immediately respond to HuffPost’s request for clarification on who Barr meant by “communities” and what he meant by people finding themselves without police protection.

Many observers took him to mean “Black communities” in the wake of anti-police-brutality protests in St. Louis, Chicago, and Ferguson in recent years that have largely been led by and made up of African Americans, Vox reported.

What Barr missed is the fact that tension isn’t about lack of respect, but about “fear, anger, and a lack of trust that comes from concerns over police shootings (including the shootings of unarmed black people) and tactics like stop-and-frisk,” Sean Collins wrote for Vox.

The attorney general was referring to communities of color that have historically endured disproportionate police brutality, mass incarceration and racial profiling, according to American Bridge, a liberal super PAC that first flagged the comments.

“The Attorney General isn’t being subtle and that shouldn’t surprise us considering this administration’s record,” American Bridge spokesperson Jeb Fain told HuffPost in a statement. “When it comes to communities of color, he sees justice and equal protection under the law as subject to conditions. 

“Barr’s words are as revealing as they are disturbing ― flagrantly dismissive of the rights of Americans of color, disrespectful to countless law enforcement officers who work hard to serve their communities, and full of a continuing disregard for the rule of law.”

Listen to GHOGH with Jamarlin Martin | Episode 67: Jamarlin Martin

Jamarlin goes solo to discuss the NFL’s entertainment and “social justice” deal with Jay-Z. We look back at the Barclays gentrification issue in the documentary “A Genius Leaves The Hood: The Unauthorized Story of Jay-Z.”

On Twitter, people responded with amazement. “Communities need protection FROM Barr,” one tweeted. “Having watched cops protect Nazis at their little tiki torch rallies and attack counter-protesters, one has to wonder who they are really ‘protecting and serving,'” another tweeted. And the irony of Barr’s words were an indictment against the entire Trump administration: “Incredibly rich for the subpoena-ignoring administration to talk about respect for law enforcement.”

Perhaps Barr has forgotten the role of dissent in American society, Steve Benen wrote for MSNBC. If African Americans protest against police brutality, “the proper response is to listen to their pleas, evaluate the claims on the merits, and take steps to address their concerns,” Benen wrote. “The improper response is to suggest those communities will no longer receive police protection. In the U.S., unsatisfied citizens are free to criticize and condemn those in positions of authority – without fear of official reprisals.”

Adam Serwer, a staff writer for The Atlantic, tweeted that the attorney general seems to be arguing that the police “are not sworn officers of the law, civil servants bound by an oath, but a gang running a protection racket.”

Read more: William Barr’s History Of Cover-Ups And Promoting Mass Incarceration