Protests should end, but conversation continue

Published 6:49 am Wednesday, June 3, 2020

On May 25, 2020, George Floyd died in Powdertown, a relatively unknown community south of downtown Minneapolis, Minnesota, after an encounter with the local police. Floyd immediately became the most well-known public figure in America.

He had been stopped by local police on an allegation that he passed a counterfeit $20. bill.   Some of what happened next was captured on video. During his arrest, it appears that one policeman knelt on Floyd’s neck while Floyd told him that he could not breathe and asked to be let up. Three other policemen were involved in the arrest. Passersby are on the video asking the officers to let Floyd up and telling them that he was still human. The video does not show everything, and it is clear that there are facts we just don’t know yet.

After the encounter, Floyd died, and one of the policemen was arrested and the others were fired.

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Rioting began in Minneapolis where the Fifth Precinct police station was burned and had to be abandoned.

On Friday night, protesters broke into a Wells Fargo Bank, which they then torched.

In Detroit, a vehicle pulled up and someone inside of it shot into the crowd killing a 19-year-old man.

In Oakland, California, someone drove a vehicle to the Ronald V. Dellums Federal Building. Someone inside the vehicle began firing, and a contract security officer for the Federal Protective Service was shot and killed.

In Indianapolis, two died in the riots.

In Denver, 13 were arrested during rioting and looting, and someone drove a car into law enforcement officers, injuring three of them and a civilian. The mayor, a black man, called for calm.

Lori Lightfoot, the black mayor of Chicago, said that she stood shoulder-to-shoulder with peaceful protesters, but admitted that “I’m also hurt and angry at those who decided to hijack this moment and use it as an opportunity to wreak havoc, to loot and to destroy.”

Keisha Lance Bottoms, the black mayor of Atlanta, condemned those who threw rocks and knives at Atlanta law enforcement and said, correctly, I think, that “You are disgracing this city, you are disgracing the life of George Floyd and every other person who has been killed in this country.”

Over this weekend, about 4,100 people were arrested according to the Associated Press.  More than two dozen cities imposed sweeping curfews.

All of this happened as we were coming out of an unprecedented time of universal cooperation. COVID-19 knew no racial bounds, and all Americans agreed to stay at home, to social distance, to wear masks, to wash our hands. While times were tough, we were all in it together.

And then this happened.  This was not America at its finest hour.

Protests were fine. In fact, protests have been a part of the American experience since before we were officially the United States. The violence and attendant crime were not fine.

Black-owned businesses were burned alongside white-owned businesses. I’ve read more than one story about a black business owner who was outside of his business to show that it was a black-owned business and asking that they not burn it.  As far as I can tell, each of those requests fell on deaf ears.  Cries by black mayors for calm were ignored. Protesters were killed by fellow protesters.

Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva seemed to capture it best: “The peaceful [protesters]…tend to remain peaceful, but what’s embedded within them are people that are … acting like terrorists, trying to instill fear, damage property, and loot.”

George Floyd’s death was a tragic death, and it should be explored fully and completely. But not every reaction to it was right. 

Clear-thinking adults can easily distinguish between the peaceful protesters and the agents of anarchy.

And it is disheartening that the cries of the peaceful protesters have been drowned out by the criminals embedded within their ranks who hijacked a valid question and replaced it with wrong doing. 

A bad situation has been made an awful situation. Many of the protests remained peaceful, but they all too often turned into mere causes for vandalism. 

While the protests should end — enough of this violence — the conversation should continue.  And we have a framework for those conversations.

Jesus said it best: “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.”

April Ross posted a photograph on Facebook of a masked black protester hugging a white cop.  I love the image, and I love it depicts that we are better when we gather to solve what are, quite frankly, common problems.

I just shared the photo on my Facebook page. Join me, let’s share that photo, and let’s begin an honest conversation. 

That is how things get better.