NYPD Cops Poisoned at Shake Shack: Where Are We Heading?

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NYPD officers at protests in Times Square (Photo: TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP via Getty Images)

Americans are now facing a new reality: Three New York Police Department (NYPD) cops had their drinks poisoned with bleach at Shake Shack.

This comes on the heels of National Guardsmen who found shards of glass baked into a pizza they ordered while deployed at the Washington, D.C. protests.

It is interesting to note other cases where shards of glass were weaponized against political opponents. During Ayatollah Khomeini’s Islamic revolution in Iran, a band of women drove around searching for women who deviated from the new norms. If they found a woman wearing lipstick, they would hand them a napkin to wipe it off. The napkin would be laced with shards of glass.

Taking things by force is at the heart of what extremists do. It’s a repeated pattern that crosses all extremist ideologies. While its current incarnation started with good intentions, there is unfortunately an extremist undercurrent steering its direction, which includes taking things by the illegitimate use of force and cancelling all other points of view.

This isn’t happening in a vacuum

In addition to reporting and training communities about how to prevent violent extremism in the next generation, Clarion Project also studies and reports on the trends that romanticize and glamorize extremism.

What we can say is that the current situation in America is not happening in a vacuum.

We all remember that Rolling Stone cover of the Boston Bomber in 2013 that portrayed terrorist Dzhokhar Tsarnaev much in the same way as previous magazine covers of rocks stars like Bob Dylan or Jim Morrison.

Then there was the 2018 TV series called Waco, which retold the story of cult leader David Koresh, the Branch Davidians and their standoff with law enforcement, which was a psychological power struggle asserted ultimately through physical force.

The show pretends to be nuanced, offering alternative points of view that give insight into the extremist cult. However, it leans heavily in favor of highlighting the Branch Davidians as rebels looking to find belonging outside an empire, while portraying law enforcement as brutes save one exception.

Ryan Mauro, director of Clarion’s Intelligence Network, weighs in:

“The series would leave anyone with the perception that the government is essentially tyrannical and evil, holding little regard for human life. If I belonged to a group urging preparation for an armed revolt against the government, I’d play Waco on loop in my compound.”

Koresh’s cult, jihadism, white supremacism and anti-government extremism are all predicated on the idea that the U.S. government is evil, is planning to extinguish all resistance, and an armed uprising is inevitable and necessary.

If you believe the U.S. government is evil, you’ll interpret everything law enforcement does in the most malicious way. All these ideologies require the dehumanization of law enforcement.”

Dehumanizing law enforcement has been a theme in our society since at least the 1960s. It is one that is pressed into our collective subconscious long before anyone takes to the streets or pours bleach in a drink.

Last year, Clarion pointed to a popular new show that inverted the most iconic role of superhero into psychopath. Amazon’s successful and entertaining new show The Boys had a message that couldn’t be ignored: Superheroes are the villains and vigilantes are the real heroes.

Right now, we’re seeing that plotline playing out on our streets. It features a mass movement that has turned all law enforcement into the villain and all opposition to it into the hero — without discrimination between protester, rioter and now attempted murderers.

In real life, first responders are human beings, some who take the high ground morally and some who don’t. Oftentimes, our men and women in blue are the closest thing we have to heroes in our communities. They are a unique set of individuals willing to put their lives on the line for us every day they come to work (and even when they are off duty or retired, as we saw in the case of Captain David Dorn, who was shot and left to die defending his friend’s store from rioters).

Of course there is a very real need to deal with corruption in our police forces. No doubt we need change, but how that change happens matters very much. Yet, it is a form of mass societal self-sabotage to dismantle the only barrier that stands between peaceful civilians and those who choose to be a threat.

What we  can start with is a common premise: extremist ideology from any direction will not point us forward, and that includes New York’s new bail law that lets even the most violent criminals back out on the street within hours without posting bail.

Editor’s Note: The NYPD has investigated the incident and determined there was no criminal wrongdoing by the employees. Investigators believe the substance in their drinks was a cleaning solution that had not been fully cleared out of the milkshake machine. The incident with the shards of glass baked into a pizza still stands. 



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How to Spot an Extremist Movement


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Shireen Qudosi

Shireen Qudosi is Clarion Project's National Correspondent.

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