The chief of police in El Paso, Texas, labeled Black Lives Matter a “radical hate group” Friday night, blaming them for Thursday’s shooting in Dallas and calling on policymakers to take a closer look at the movement.
Greg Allen was in attendance at a news conference Friday where various leaders in the El Paso area expressed solidarity with Dallas while also trying to appeal to those who feel marginalized by a recent spate of high-profile police shootings. Allen didn’t deliver a statement at the conference, but he gave an interview to local press afterwards.
During the interview, Allen was asked to comment on an upcoming protest vigil El Paso’s Black Lives Matter group is planning to hold Sunday night. He responded by denouncing the group in remarkably harsh terms.
“Black Lives Matter, as far as I am concerned, is a radical hate group,” Allen said. “And for that purpose alone, I think the leadership of this country needs to look a little bit harder at that particular group. The consequences of what we saw in Dallas is due to their efforts.”
Notably, Allen himself is black. He has led El Paso’s 1,100-officer force, one of the country’s 50 largest police departments, since 2007. Under his leadership, El Paso has consistently rated as one of America’s safest large cities.
When informed of Allen’s remarks, El Paso County Sheriff Richard Wiles disagreed. He said the actions of Dallas shooter Micah Johnson cannot simply be pinned on the broader Black Lives Matter movement, even though Johnson said he hated white people and wanted to kill police as form of revenge for the shooting of black men.
“Black Lives Matter is a radical group? That is not my belief,” Wiles said, according to the El Paso Times. “I certainly understand that there are incidents occurring throughout the country that are bringing attention to things that are important to communities all across this nation and I think we have to, and what has worked well, is that we have to sit down and communicate about our problems. Now whether that affected this, I don’t know … I think unfortunately there are evil people who will do terrible things and clearly this person (the Dallas gunman) was an evil person. What was in his heart and mind, I don’t know and I really don’t care.”
Texas state Sen. José Rodríguez also rejected Allen’s remarks before criticizing police for being too willing to use force against non-whites.
“Let’s be clear. Black Lives Matter did not shoot at police in Dallas last night; individuals with guns did that,” he said. “Black Lives Matter also did not invent the killing of two men in Falcon Heights and Baton Rouge, in what appears to be law enforcement execution at worst, and tragic incompetence at best … We grant police the right to make life and death decisions, but not without question or with impunity. There is much evidence that too often, this government-sanctioned violence is exercised too quickly and easily, especially against minorities.”
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