The death of George Floyd set off a firestorm that might actually lead to some meaningful change. We’ve had some changes in the past, even though this week it might not feel like it. One example: the more widespread use of body-cams have demonstrated that “bad apples” get caught while it can acquit the actions of others.
However, things need to calm down before those new changes can happen.
I didn’t go to the protest in Salt Lake City on Saturday. I wish I had now. I did go to one in Orem today. Very peaceful, very unexciting.
I went to SLC in 2016 when Trump made his appearance during the presidential primaries. Attended an anti-Trump rally and a pro-Trump rally to observe. The anti-Trump rally had a lot more attendees. Both sides were peaceful. At the anti-Trump rally I saw the antifa kids. Ten or twelve young white people dressed in black with masks, carrying weapons. They seemed itching for a fight. Things never got out of hand when I was there.
I suspect the same mindset of young white people in masks was there among hundreds who were at the peaceful protest for George Floyd. The majority of protests were peaceful. I don’t know what the political motivations were of whoever started the rioting and vandalism, but I guarantee the majority who participated didn’t care about George Floyd, didn’t care about institutional racism, and didn’t care about their neighbors. They wanted to smash stuff.
Our police are put in an increasingly tenuous position. They know every time there is police brutality, it makes their own job harder. They know that “police and protesters have dialogue, no violence happens” is the rarest of headlines, even though it takes place frequently.
Unfortunately we have a Divider-in-Chief who doesn’t look at protesters as people. Anyone who questions his authority is a lowlife and scum. Trump’s escalation of violence was predictable. If you look at his rhetoric over the years, it was probably inevitable. His all but declaring martial law, ordering thousands of troops to various states, it’s all the hallmarks of a fascist leader who wants to suppress dissent. The only thing he cares about is not looking weak.
We need to look at everything going on. George Floyd was a tipping point. So many other unarmed black people killed by police have made the news, but this time, it was undeniable the cruelty behind his death. And if it hadn’t been recorded, the police might have gotten away with it. Not just that. We’ve had 2-3 months of everyone getting cooped up, locked down, socially distanced, laid off, and drinking more. This got people outdoors. So we’ve had protests. Black Lives Matter. But then opportunists have taken advantage of it by rioting. We’ve seen the video of looters in Rochester beating a woman with a 2×4 in front of her store. We’ve seen the video of the SLC cop knocking down an old man with a cane who was just standing there minding his own business. We’ve seen the video of Brandon McCormick with his bow-and-arrow shooting at the crowd yelling “All lives matter!” before he was subdued, beaten, and had his car destroyed. We’ve seen the videos of mysterious piles of bricks being in downtown locations. (Hmm…) We’ve seen the video of the DC protesters peacefully standing there before the police attacked them, beating them with batons and shields, launching tear gas, firing rubber bullets, all so that Trump could have his photo op in front of a church that didn’t want him there, holding a Bible he doesn’t know a single verse of, looking “tough.” I’ve seen so many people who otherwise love small government be silent or outright praise Trump’s expansion of government power, especially in the name of doing violence to US citizens.
We’ve also seen videos of the helpers.
When the Rodney King riots broke out all over America, Pres. George HW Bush went to Los Angeles and talked to people. Since the invention of media, all presidents have known the importance of being that voice of calm. Every president until now has at least given lip-service in trying to unite. Over the past four years, I feel like more and more I’m talking to brick walls. We’re so information-silo’d that all so many Trump haters see are brutal cops, all so many Trump lovers see are thugs looting.
Riots, vandalism, looting, it doesn’t just jeopardize the health of the local businesses, it jeopardizes the lives of the protesters, bystanders (David McAtee anyone?), and the police. And when the dust settles, we need to look to the leaders who call us to help clean up and listen to each other, not leaders who just want more violence.