Check It Out: The ‘Rabble-rouser Effect’

by J. Pharoah Doss, For New Pittsburgh Courier

Rabble-rouser (noun), a person who speaks with intentions of inflaming the emotions of a crowd of people, typically for political reasons.

After fatal police encounters involving African Americans during the last decade, American cities experienced rioting that was reminiscent of the 1960s.

But the 21st century actually began with a riot that has been forgotten.

In 2001, rioting erupted after an unarmed Black man was fatally shot by the police in Cincinnati. This incident was the largest civil disturbance since the 1992 riots in Los Angeles, which took place after four White police officers were acquitted for beating Black motorist Rodney King.

The rallying cry of Cincinnati protesters was “Stop Killing Us.” There were other fatal shootings of Black men by the Cincinnati police which built tension and made the violent response by residents inevitable. The relationship between the Black residents and the Cincinnati police was so bad that activists didn’t want any police presence in the Black community.

The Cincinnati police obliged and withdrew.

Two months later, crime rates skyrocketed. There were 60 shootings, 78 people were wounded, compared with 9 shootings the previous year during the same time period.

The rabble-rousers who didn’t want any police presence turned around and claimed that the non-police presence in the Black community was unethical and illegal.

In 2014 a Black teenager named Michael Brown was shot and killed by a White police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, after a tussle over the officer’s gun. However, the press initially reported that Brown put his hands up and begged the officer not to shoot. This false narrative led to the Ferguson riot and gave national prominence to a protest movement called Black Lives Matter.

This was when the rabble-rousers of Black Lives Matter first told the press they advocated defunding the police.

After Ferguson, the national media became fixated on covering every fatal police encounter that involved a White officer and a Black person. The fixation wasn’t on police brutality, it was on the new group of young rabble-rousers decrying systemic racism, and each fatal police encounter led to more demonstrations and more violence.

Since urban police departments were under the microscope and portrayed as the clearest example of systemic racism in America, police departments began to pull back from “pro-active” policing. Over time statistics began to reflect an uptick in crime rates in major cities across America, and the concept of “police withdrawal resulting in crime increases” became known as “The Ferguson Effect.”

However, “The Ferguson Effect” was dismissed.

Critics claimed there were spikes in crime, but there was no evidence the spikes correlated to “The Ferguson Effect.” Then the critics promoted data that indicated crime rates were at a historic low if the spikes were excluded.

Obviously, these same critics forgot about the 2001 Cincinnati riots and how crime increased after the police withdrew.

In 2020, George Floyd, a Black man, was killed by a White police officer in Minneapolis. Riots and Black Lives Matter protests broke out all across the nation. From May 25 to July 31, 2020, there were 8,700 protests; 574 of them were riots. All of this transpired because Floyd was killed in barbaric fashion, and it was captured on video for the world to witness.

During these events, national Black Lives Matter spokespersons along with local activists and a host of other prominent people demanded for city councils to defund the police.

Some city councils obliged.

A year later, the mayor of Minneapolis, Jacob Frey, publicly admitted that defunding the police led to a spike in crime in his city. Former Los Angeles and New York City police chief Bill Bratton explained that cities that have embraced defunding the police are now acknowledging the “unintended negative consequences” of their reforms as crime rates surged in their respective cities.

Defunding the police has consequences and the crime surges that result should be called: The Rabble-rouser Effect.


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