You’ve probably seen the video. A Minneapolis police officer slowly killed George Floyd, over the course of almost ten minutes. He had help. Another officer, mostly obscured by the police vehicle, appeared to subdue Floyd’s lower body. A third officer stood guard and kept protesters at bay.
Officers, who responded to a complaint of passing counterfeit bills, said Floyd resisted arrest. Thus far, multiple videos of the arrest and Floyd’s killing have surfaced. None appeared to show him resisting. If Floyd did resist, he had clearly stopped by the time he was handcuffed, with his bloody face grinding into the pavement and an officer’s knee pressed into his neck. If he ever posed a threat to officers, it was long over by the time the video began. If it was necessary to use force – even a knee to the back of the neck – to subdue him, it was only necessary for a matter of seconds. Again, there’s no evidence thus far that it was necessary at all.
What happened to George Floyd is unconscionable. Police shootings, which often spark controversy and debate, usually happen in an instant. Most of those incidents involve a snap judgment from the officer to assess a perceived threat and decide how or whether to act. The killing of George Floyd was not that. Did the officer set out to kill Floyd? Who knows? It probably was not his intention. But that matters little, as his actions defy any sense of reason, logic or sanity. He pinned Floyd to the ground, ignored his cries of being unable to breath, ignored the bystanders pleading with him to let Floyd up. The officer was enabled by his co-workers who did not intervene. This went on for minutes that seemed like hours. It is not plausible that the officer perceived Floyd to be a threat after the first minute. Not with multiple officers around. Not with the gentle way that Floyd complained about the knee. Not with his hands cuffed behind his back. He continued, oblivious to the cries and cell phones, until Floyd was dead
Floyd’s killing was a tragedy. Four officers were fired. Their prosecution seems likely. Everyone from President Trump to Mayor Frey has indicated their agreement that this was excessive force and that justice will be served. Justice must be served for Minneapolis to heal. What won’t help Minneapolis heal is rioting, looting, burning property to the ground and vandalizing buildings and vehicles.
Why does the unjustified killing of a black man at the hands of a white police officer lead to people burning down homes and businesses, stealing thousands of dollars worth of merchandise, smashing windows? Why is looting and rioting the go-to response when a member of the community is killed by the police? The two actions have nothing to do with each other. Innocent people are being hurt, having their homes and businesses and livelihoods destroyed. It’s a free-for-all in the streets for people to just grab whatever they want. Killing George Floyd was irrational and unjust. How does looting avenge that? Destroying their city only hurts everyone in Minneapolis. It doesn’t earn sympathy or credibility for the protest movement.
In the past, looting has occurred seemingly as a reaction to not just actions taken by officers, but inaction by their superiors to fire or prosecute them. Those aren’t the facts here. The officers were immediately suspended, then fired the next day. They seem to be on the path toward criminal prosecution. Justice is likely on the way to being served here. It doesn’t happen overnight. What has happened overnight is the ransacking and robbery of a Target, the destruction of an Autozone and several homes and other buildings, and armed clashes between rioters and police. And now, a looter is dead because a pawn shop owner fought back.
The protesters – those who march and chant and hold signs – are the ones who get a message across. They are heard. They are respected – maybe not every time, but this time to be sure. They have every right to protest and doing so gets the ear of politicians and media. The looters, the rioters get the ear of the police and the national guard. They are not acting in protest. They are acting in lawless savagery. Their response to the killing of George Floyd is to steal flat-screen TVs and burn down buildings. It’s to hurt people who had nothing to do with Floyd’s killing. Justice will be served to the officers responsible for Floyd’s death. How many rioters, looters, thieves and vandals will get the justice they deserve for destroying their city?
This is a bad week for America, and a disgusting look for Minneapolis.