Thoughts by Richard Bleil
This was very nearly the first blog I’ve missed in over five hundred days. I’ve been thinking about what to say, and how to say it. Since the death of George Floyd, things in Minneapolis, where I still have friends, has been continuing to escalate.
First some background. George Floyd was a professional football player. He was a defensive back for the New York Jets. This means that he was large, and strong. I have no doubt he had a menacing presence, but sadly, he was also unfortunately born a minority.
As a society, we have made a lot of progress in equality, but recent events have shown how very far we have yet to go, and the reality is that we are backsliding. Some of the stories have been absurd, like the woman who called the police because a black man asked her to leash her dog in central park, New York. This is a very reasonable request and her response was excessive to say the least. I sincerely doubt she would have called for police if it had been a white man. Some stories are extreme examples of white privilege. In Michigan, white men are upset with the safety guidelines from the governor. They have been organizing and protesting, while wearing full body armor and armed with military style assault weapons. As I understand it, they’ve even made it into the state capital building, with no repercussions. One might say that this is “proof” that white men are not violent since they haven’t turned the protests violent, but had these men been minorities, they would not have even been given the opportunity to peacefully assemble when fully armed. This is white privilege.
In Minneapolis, a grocery store called the police for a suspected forged check. This is an important consideration; this is not a violent crime, a suspected forged check. When police arrived, their timing was unfortunate enough to coincide with George Floyd’s exit. Even if a check had been forged, it would not have been George that did it. The time that it would take to contact the police and for them to arrive does not coincide with the possibility that he had been a forger. Unfortunately for George, this was in a precinct in Minneapolis with the worst reputation, and one of the responding officers, a twenty-year veteran of the precinct, had a dozen complaints against him, including one of violating constitutional rights of a suspect, had never received a reprimand.
All four officers had been relieved of their duties but, to date, have had no charges filed against them. Instead of leaving the city, he barricaded himself in his home. A group of protesters gathered outside of the home, and police were called in to protect him and his property. The police chief and mayor were oddly silent through the friction, instead choosing to try to deal with the protests with force. As night fell, the police reportedly fired several rounds of tear gas into the crowd in an attempt to get them to disperse. Which I suppose worked.
Unfortunately, when they dispersed, the anger reached a boiling point. The turned to the city, and the protest turned violent. Stores were looted, fires were started and the matter escalated. There has been criticism about these violent protests, but somehow those protesting also protested peaceful calls for racial equity including when Colin Kaepernick, quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers, peacefully tried protesting police brutality by kneeling during the national anthem at football games. Instead of doing anything to address the inequalities Colin was trying to bring attention to, the president tried pressuring the NFL into punishing the players who protested.
With multiple businesses set afire and looting and violent rioting increasing, the governor, instead of doing anything to investigate the incident, the police chief, or the precinct in general instead called in the National Guard. The response of violence to violence was unfortunately the wrong thing to do. Martin Luther King Jr. once said that “Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.” Throwing the national guard in to quell the violence is really not different from trying to squeeze air out of a tied balloon; it might leave where you are squeezing, but it will only move to another location. And move it did.
Tonight, reports of the moving violence is in the news. In Minneapolis, protesters have taken the capital building. The occupation is not significantly different from in 2014 occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon when Ammon Bundy and a group of armed white right-wing extremists occupied the building in protest of the government taking rancher land using eminent domain. The only difference is that Bundy and those involved were white. In response, they were barricaded in, but permitted to receive supplies during the occupation. No arrests occurred until two years later. It will be interesting to see how the protest in Minneapolis is handled.
Now, the protests have also extended beyond Minneapolis. Apparently, protests have begun in New York City as well and are beginning to escalate there as well. Meanwhile, our ever skilled president is showing his great power as a master negotiator which got him into the White House is showing his concern for the situation by railing against Twitter because, instead of deleting his false tweets, simply provided resources to get the truth behind the lies he is perpetrating about mail-in voting.
Something needs to be done and going down the same path isn’t the right answer.