In recent weeks, it’s been difficult for Americans to breathe. That’s hard to do when their noses are covered by face masks they’ve been forced to wear because of a pandemic. You’d think the coronavirus being toppled as the number one news story would allow everyone to breathe a sigh of relief, but no. We are now holding our breaths in light of protest pandemonium.
Because of police brutality, George Floyd literally couldn’t breathe and died on May 25th. Violent protests have since erupted as a result. Business owners are holding their breaths fearing that their property will be vandalized, looted, or burned to the ground. Tear gas launched to disperse protesters has them gasping for breath. Can’t we get a breather from bad news?
As painful as the story is, let’s clear the air about what has happened and what is continuing to happen. On the evening of May 25th, George Floyd, a 46 year old black male, went to Cup Foods, a convenience store in Minneapolis to buy some cigarettes. To pay for his smokes, Floyd presented a counterfeit $20 bill; as required by law, the store owner called police about the fake money. Four officers eventually appeared on the scene and, around 8 p.m., they confronted Mr. Floyd who was ultimately handcuffed. The rest, as they say, is history–shameful history.
No one has to imagine what happened. Anyone and everyone can see the incident for themselves. A woman named Darnella Frazier was walking to the store when she saw police officers restraining Floyd. Because Floyd was complaining he couldn’t breathe, she pulled out her cell phone and began recording the scene–one which lasted for over SEVEN minutes. (NOTE: I could’ve fixed three minute eggs twice during that time and started on the third round.)
As the chilling footage reveals, Floyd was handcuffed and lying prone on the street next to a police car. A police officer, now identified as Derek Chauvin, had Floyd’s neck pinned to the ground with his knee, continuing to do so even after Floyd stopped moving. Floyd repeatedly told officers he couldn’t breathe, but his complaints were ignored. Ultimately his limp body was lifted onto a stretcher and he was declared dead. It was the end of Floyd’s earthly life, but the beginning of protest pandemonium.
The medical examiner’s report found fentanyl intoxication in Mr. Floyd as well as evidence of recent meth use. Not satfsfied with the official autopsy, Floyd’s family commissioned their own. That autopsy concluded Floyd died of asphyxiation due to neck and back compression, i.e., being pinned to the ground by the police. Floyd truly could not breathe.
So Mr. Floyd had three strikes against him. In an area with a lengthy history of racial discrimination, he was a black male. He was accused of committing a crime in passing fake currency. He had drugs in his system which physical condition may or may not have been apparent to the responding officers. But let’s take a deep breath and consider these circumstances. Do they justify police brutality and the loss of Mr. Floyd’s life? Absolutely not!
Because of the incident, the four responding officers were all fired. Officer Chauvin, who had used his knee to hold Floyd down for several minutes, was initially charged with third degree murder and second degree manslaughter. Unsatisfied with that action, demands were made for charges to be lodged against the other three officers and for Officer Chauvin to be charged with first degree murder. Yesterday charges of aiding and abetting murder were lodged against the previously uncharged officers while Chauvin’s charges were upgraded to include second degree murder. In addition to criminal charges, Officer Chauvin’s wife is divorcing him. Looks like he’s being pinned to the figurative ground with legal charges!
The fallout is even wider than simply punitive actions against the responding police officers. The State of Minnesota has launched a civil rights investigation of the Minneapolis Police Department which has been the object of decades of allegations of brutality and discrimination. Sharp intakes of breath, no doubt, are being taken by police officials.
The public has also taken action in the wake of Floyd’s senseless killing. Protests have been ongoing ever since his death. But what exactly is a protest? According to the Cambridge Dictionary, a protest is an occasion where people publicly show they disagree with something by standing somewhere, shouting, and carrying signs on the streets. Not sure why the name PROtest was chosen since a protest indicates people are against something–in this case, police brutality and discrimination against blacks–rather than FOR something.
But what has occurred and is continuing to occur goes far beyond a protest. Yes, there are concerned and responsible citizens who merely want to peacefully exercise their First Amendment rights and express how black lives matter. These people are a breath of fresh air because they care and speak up about wrong behavior. But many others have used the protest forum as a platform to spring into illegal and destructive behavior. Violent protests in the U.S. have been accompanied by widespread looting and arson. Being hot about injustice is one thing, but turning stores, restaurants, and police stations into infernos is simply hotheaded and wrong.
Looting, vandalism, and arson have nothing to do with expressing an opinion and everything to do with acting irresponsibly and against the law. Protesters have a right to be angry and to express an opinion; they do not have a right to riot or to steal or destroy the property of others. Even George Floyd’s brother recognized and publicly voiced that such behavior would not bring his brother back. He urged that violent behavior cease.
According to the CBS evening news, over 13,500 people have been arrested during the protests since Floyd’s death. Thousands of National Guard troops are now deployed in about half the states of the U.S. The Pentagon even ordered military police from an active duty battalion at Fort Bragg to deploy to the Washington, D.C. due to expected violent demonstrations; similar units from other Army posts were put on alert for possible deployment on short notice to provide backup.
An unacceptable situation (a death due to police brutality and discrimination) has from gone from bad to worse. Police brutality and discrimination haven’t been eliminated, and chaos now reigns on city streets where innocent business owners’ livelihoods have literally gone up in smoke. I know exactly what my mother would say about this situation. It would be, “Two wrongs don’t make a right.” The first wrong was how George Floyd was treated by police. But that doesn’t give protesters the right to loot, set fires, and vandalize. That’s the second wrong. Let’s all take a breath and come up with a specific plan to end racial discrimination and police brutality which doesn’t involve rioting, wanton destruction of property, and mayhem.
Have you ever participated in a protest? If so, about what issue? What, if anything, have the violent demonstrations following Floyd’s death accomplished? If racial discrimination is systemic, how quickly can it reasonably be eliminated? What is the most effective method for overcoming such discrimination by police?