About two months ago, Dallas Police sergeant and president of the Dallas Fallen Officer Foundation Demetrick Pennie garnered praise for helping to heal relations between police and the black community.
He was reacting, in part, to a post by an NFL star.
Following the slaying of five Dallas police officers that occurred after a particularly bloody week – police in other cities had killed two black men, Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge and Philando Castile in Falcon Heights, Minn. – Cleveland Browns running back Isaiah Crowell posted a disturbing illustration to Instagram.
In graphic detail, it depicted a uniformed white police officer, arms twisted behind his back. A man dressed in black, wearing a necklace with an ankh and a pair of American flag suspenders, stood behind the officer with one hand clamped on his mouth. The other hand holds a knife, which has just slit through the officer’s throat. Blood is shown gushing out from an open wound.
Its caption: “Mood: They give polices all types of weapons and they continuously choose to kill us.”
Crowell quickly removed the post, but not before the gears of the outrage machine began cranking. He apologized.
Amid the backlash, Sgt. Pennie, who is black, invited Crowell to attend the funeral of Patrick Zamarripa, one of the five slain Dallas police officers, and to spend the day with him and other police officers in an attempt to find similarities, not differences.
Crowell accepted the invitation (though, it should be noted, Cleveland’s police union made threats to pull police from providing security at Browns games if he didn’t go).
Ultimately, the interaction seemed positive.
On Facebook, Pennie wrote:
“As leaders in the police community, it is our duty to establish and maintain the public trust. We in the Dallas Police Department are hurting and now it is time to start the healing process by creating greater understanding in the community. My interactions with Mr. Crowell demonstrates that mutual understanding is possible as long as both parties are willing to listen.”
At the time, the Dallas Morning News Editorial Board published an op-ed with the headline, “No tactic more healing than what this Dallas cop used on football player,” referring to Pennie’s invitation to Crowell.
“Pennie characterized the discussions as the truest expression of community policing: ‘This marked the beginning of an open dialogue where greater understanding for policing culture could be obtained,'” the piece stated.
On Friday, however, Pennie took a step in a different direction.
With conservative gadfly lawyer and founder of FreedomWatch Larry Klayman, he filed an amended 66-page lawsuit in the United States District Court of the Northern District of Texas against Black Lives Matter, President Obama and others.
The suit, which is filed on behalf of the plaintiffs and “police officers and other law enforcement persons of all races and ethnicities including but not limited to Jews, Christians and Caucasians,” accuses the defendants of inciting “their supporters and others to engage in threats of and attacks to cause serious bodily injury or death upon police officers and other law enforcement persons of all races and ethnicities including but not limited to Jews, Christians and Caucasians.”
The phrase “including but not limited to Jews, Christians and Caucasians” appears 35 times in the suit.
The suit lists the following 17 defendants: Louis Farrakhan, the Nation of Islam, Al Sharpton, the National Action Network, Black Lives Matter, Rashad Turner, Opal Tometi, Patrisse Cullors, Alicia Garza, Johnetta Elzie, DeRay Mckesson, Malik Zulu Shabazz, the New Black Panther Party, George Soros, Barack Obama, Eric Holder and Hillary Clinton.
It seeks damages in excess of $500 million.
The suit is unlikely to be taken too seriously by a judge. Among other things, Pennie does not show some specific harm he has suffered, a requirement for federal lawsuits. And then there’s the matter of the First Amendment and the president’s immunity from suits.
In a statement about the suit, Klayman said, “Sergeant Pennie and I feel duty-bound to put ourselves forward to seek an end to the incitement of violence against law enforcement which has already resulted in the death of five police officers in Dallas and the wounding of seven more, just in Texas alone. . . . While the case was filed in Texas, it will create precedent around the nation that law enforcement, which ironically protects the very persons who are alleged to have incited this violence, should be respected.”
Added Klayman, “The defendants, if not legally reined in, are allegedly responsible, along with others, for igniting a race war that will ultimately totally destroy the freedoms that our Founding Fathers bequeathed to us.”
Thus far, the social media reaction to the lawsuit has been supportive, if not saturated with racism.
On Twitter, Pennie was called a “new hero.” Others claim to “stand with” him and that he “has it right.”
Others, though not nearly as many, reacted negatively to the lawsuit.
In response, the Dallas Morning News published an op-ed Tuesday from editorial board member Leona Allen headlined “DPD sergeant’s suit against Black Lives Matter does more harm than good.”
Allen called the lawsuit “disappointing news” and stated “It is Pennie who is showing that he doesn’t understand the issues that have led to racial tensions in these communities.”
“What happened to trying to work together to address the underlying reasons for this strife?” Allen asked.
“Let me say again, it is possible to condemn the killings of our police officers and have great concern for the killings of black residents at the hands of police.
“Certainly, not everyone in the Black Lives Matter movement is about doing the right thing for the right reasons. Just as not all officers can be counted on to act appropriately in all situations.
“Pennie is wrong to paint all Black Lives Matter leaders with the same tainted broad brush that he’s accusing them of using in their actions against all officers.
. . . Here’s hoping a judge dismisses it quickly.”
On Facebook, Pennie posted about the lawsuit, though he clarified that “this letter is not intended for media dissemination.”
In the note, he stated that he “acted individually,” not on behalf of the Dallas Police Department.
“We cannot allow people, especially those we call leaders, to be the very ones advocating and stoking violence against law enforcement professionals, or even acting passively as if nothing is wrong. … I understand the associated risks of what I am doing, but I am not afraid nor will I be intimidated by those who disagree with my position. I am willing and ready to fight for what I believe in, plain and simple!”