Marchers For and Against Police Clash in New York City

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A new kind of unrest over policing has emerged in recent days: confrontations between New Yorkers who support law enforcement and those who are pressing for an overhaul of the police department, the New York Times reports. There have been raw encounters across the city, as civilian groups identifying themselves as pro-police have attracted counterprotesters. Violent clashes and arrests have played out this month as unsettling images of civilian-versus-civilian rage echo back to past racial violence. Most pro-police events have been neighborhood-based and organized by local residents, using Facebook and other social media outlets. Others have been co-organized by local political groups. The crowds, which are overwhelmingly white, have included a mix of retired officers, their friends and family, and others who said they are rallying support for law and order.

Many law enforcement supporters feel local officers have been wrongly vilified since George Floyd’s death. The rise of pro-police rallies is also a reaction to legislative efforts to shrink the police department. The rallies, often known as “Back the Blue” or “Blue Lives Matter” events, have been met by Black Lives Matter backers — racially diverse groups of protesters who are outraged at gatherings that they see as undermining their own cause. “For pro-cop rallies to come down into the streets and yell ‘white lives matter’ or ‘blue lives matter,’ it almost takes away from the conversation,” said Abdullah Akl, 18, who helped organize a counterprotest. “We aren’t fighting against individual police, we are fighting against the institution as a whole and all the racism practices within.” This month in Brooklyn neighborhoods, hundreds turned out for pro-police rallies that were interrupted by protesters from the Black Lives Matter movement, and tensions quickly escalated in confrontations split along racial lines.

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