I’ll probably be viewed as a traitor by some, will disappoint many, anger a few and express the thoughts of the majority of Americans in the next few sentences. I’ll avoid predictions because I simply do not know where it will all end in the short run. In the long run many things will stay the same and at least one that got worse in the last few days will most likely be a new fixture, at least for the short term that is. Let’s explore.
George Floyd was murdered by the Minneapolis Police in broad daylight and the incident was caught on camera. This was not the first instance of a white police officer killing a black man in his custody and I doubt it will be the last. The problems and causes run deep in American history. I’ll leave the explanations to people more learned and qualified like Michelle Alexander and Ta-Nehisi Coates.
In the immediate aftermath people took to the street in many cities around the world to protest. The attitude of the legitimate protesters is: Enough is enough and when will this end? The First Amendment guarantees freedom of speech, expression, association and assembly; (more about another provision below.) That Amendment has been interpreted to include a few reasonable constraints that guarantee peaceful protest. The late Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. taught us that protest/demonstration doesn’t solve a problem but it brings attention to the problem.
Of late protestors took over government building to call for the end to public safety restrictions in an effort to save lives from the still very much ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Unlike those protesting the murder of George Floyd I do not agree with their cause. To me there is a major difference between bringing attention to a wrong and playing dress up with your guns in an attempt to intimidate elected officials into risking lives.
What both groups have in common is that they put themselves, others and everyone they come into contact with in danger by ignoring cautious behavior.
Turning exclusively to the George Floyd protestors, I respect your right to peacefully demonstrate. I’m not much of a protest/demonstrate person (which did not endear me to an element when I was actively involved in party politics) I chose to bring attention to problems with my writing. In my estimation those crowds can be divided into three specific types of participants.
The bulk of the protesters are legitimately grieved, concerned and frightened people who want the police killings to stop. Next group are “voyeurs”. They want to take pictures, experience “excitement” and be where the action is. The smallest element is plain and simple criminals looking to commit crimes of opportunity.
The “voyeurs” need to find another outlet. They are much like the rubberneckers at the scene of an accident. They just get in the way and make the tasks of the first responders more difficult. The criminals are simply that and should be treated as such. That does not mean I agree with President Trump’s purloined statement of, “When the looting starts, the shooting starts”! The biggest shame to me – other than the damages innocent business owners, many of them mom and pop operations just hanging on in the pandemic suffer – is the legitimate majority who are being used as a diversion by the criminals.
One of the major guarantees of the First Amendment is freedom of the press. A free and informative press is necessary to the operation of a democracy. (Despite the rhetoric of the right wing, America is a democracy – just a representative democracy not a pure democracy.) There have been over a dozen documented attacks on the press by the police over the last few nights. This must stop!
Turning to the police; talk about a tough job! The police are largely in a damned if you do damned if you don’t situation when it comes to trying to keep peace and protect property in civil unrest situations. I’m about as pro-police as a liberal can be but there is certainly room for criticism here.
As an American you have a right to (internally) be a racist. However, when you don the uniform you have to suppress that feeling. Everyone, and I mean everyone, deserves equal protection and treatment under the law. There is a brotherhood/sisterhood (although to date and my knowledge the perps have all been male) in the profession. Therefore (in my mind somewhat unfairly) all police get tarred by the actions of the bad apples. It is natural for the crowds to paint all police with the same brush.
Shooting at members of the media may make you popular at a MAGA rally but it is wrong, illegal and un-American. Just as the chaos and confusion hide the looters too often it hides the identity of the few bad cops in the crowd. Where they can be identified those who shoot journalist need to be criminally prosecuted. The circumstances surrounding too many of these assaults on media are just too convenient to be mistakes. This and incidents of assault on protestors are the exact types of police actions that caused the demonstrations in the first place.
There is an old saying about two wrongs not making a right. In this case we have a multitude of wrongs making a mess and killing Americans in the process.
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