In 30 or more cities around the USA last weekend, protests over the death of George Floyd as a result of his brural treatment by Minneapolis police descented into violence, looting and destruction of property. While the protests against the injustice (Mr. Floyd’s offence, if he actually committed any offence, was trivial,) one injustice does not neutralise another and the violence and rioting by the protestors was unacceptable. As was the violent and aggressive response from police forces whose senior officers and political overseers seem to think the way to curb violent behaviour is with more violence.
Police patrol cars in Brooklyn, New York mowed drove into crowds of protestors. National Guardsmen in Minneapolis fired paint canisters at residents standing on their own porches taking no active part in the protests. A Pennsylvania cop was caught on video kicking a teenager who was already on the ground, her hands covering her face. An officer in Utah pushed down an elderly man who was walking with the aid of a stick. Across the country, cops shot protestors and journalists with rubber bullets (once on live TV), arrested reporters, and pepper-sprayed members of the press, even though they had they clearly identified themselves as working journalists.
The sum total of the coverage showed that far from trying to quell the violence, the police were escalating it.
In response the media fanned the flames of civil unrest by portraying the protests as race riots, or ‘us and them’ incidents as people of minority groups protested against injustice and inequality, black versus white. By painting mostly peaceful protestors as criminals, those on the right hope it will provide cover for — and distract from — the unchecked thuggery of police officers across the U.S., while in portraying them as victims, the left only amplify the sense of injustice felt by the minorities.
But there is no “both sides” argument to be made here. Police officers, armed and armored, are backed by law and the power of the state. They are tasked with maintaining order, bringing lawbreakers to justice and protecting people and property and are armed, equipped and trained to do this. They also have a duty to be fair, impartian and restrained in teir responses. Protestors have no such power, training or duty. To act as if this is a fight between equals is ridiculous, but to pick a fight with such an overwhelmingly superior opponent, as the violent protesors have, is stupid.
Equally ludicrous is the idea that police officers are the only ones being aggressive, often they are simply defending themselves. In response to the video of a police vehicle running over protestors, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said, “If those protesters had just gotten out of the way and not attempted to surround that vehicle, we would not be talking about this.”
De Blasio is right. If the protestors had not tried to block the path of the police car, if they had “just gotten out of the way,” the police officers would not have driven into them.
Restraint is supposedly part of a police officer’s job. A few weeks ago a group of heavily armed white men stormed into the Michigan Capitol building to express their anger over the coronavirus lockdown order (the lockdown rules declared by Minnestota’s left / liberal governor Tim Walz were considered particularly oppressive by citizens outside the cities. None of those armed and angry protestors were beaten, tear gassed, or shot with rubber bullets, but then the protestors, while showing they were equipped to respond to violence if any was offered, did not resort to looting, burning cars or destroying property, they simply made their point and went home.
Some news commentators have called for the police to be defunded or demanded that the country moves toward restorative justice instead of the punitive model that harms so many black Americans. The lunatic fringe have demanded that the police forces be disbanded. And what? Hand control of cities to gangsters or introduce martial law?
How did a supposedly socially advanced country like the USA come to this? you might well ask. Two elements have come together to create the horror that is policing in America:
First of all, the Supreme Court have ruled that police have “partial immunity” if they hurt people in the line of duty. This translates in the mind of many police officers as giving them carte blanche to pursue their own agenda with impunity. It seems that many racists and extremists in America have chosen to become police officers, as it is a perfect way to promote their views, and to act on them. Of course this does not apply to all police in the USA. But it applies to far too many, and we are reaping the consequences.
Secondly, the political left, liberals and ‘progressives’, obsessed with signalling their virtue to the world, have refused to believe statistics showing all kinds of crime are higher among certain racial minorities, and additionally have refused to blame members of those communities for their crimes, instead casting them as victims of a racist and oppressive society rather than perpetrators of crimes, often against members of their own communities.
It is an increasingly problematic modern trend (identity politics,) to group people of a certain race, religion, sexual preference or political position together as one homogeneous group – as if the individual actions of one person represent the thinking and actions of that group. It’s a very lazy way of thinking but also very widespread, especially among those who work in mainstream media.
It doesn’t matter whether you’re taking the actions of one white woman and referring to every white woman as a Karen (a US internet meme portraying middle class white women as bossy, bigoted, stupid and racist,), or one rapist and calling all men predators – all such lazy thinking achieves is to amplify divisive rhetoric and increase mutual hostility. It also demonstrates either a lack of journalistic integrity or a painfully simplistic outlook on the world.
The George Floyd incident and ensuing civil unrest has highlighted the reprehensible actions of a small number of US police officers and the extremely deep divisions in U.S. society. It is clear from the week’s events that US police forces need reform but whether reforms are possible in such a violent and divided nation is a big question. Certainly the violent inner city communities need a very different kind of policing to the gated compounds of wealthy suburbs or the easy paced life of rural areas. How can the drug gangs and organised crime networks of south – side Chicago or east L.A. be dealt with by well mannered gentlemen whose instinctive reaction is to show restraint when somebody pulls a gun.
Some of the more lurid news coverage of the riots suggests that we are witnessing the start of a war between the people, who are inherently good, and every single police officer who therefore must be evil, up and down the country. This is not so, but another trend that has divided the USA is for liberals / progressives to assume self – righteously that all reasonable people concur with their point of view. This is not only untrue, it is ridiculous. Enough people voted for Donald Trump to make him president under the U.S. electoral system. Those people tend to support the police (some with reservations about the violence,) and have no wish to go to war with them.
Suggesting a war between police and the people doesn’t feel like a mature and sensible way to deconstruct a complicated problem, but it is one being employed by many left leaning mainstream news organisations and Democrat supporting websites. And as long as they continue to take that line the situation will continue to get worse. Words matter, especially as America teeters on the brink of social meltdown. The media has a responsibility to address complicated truths with insight. For that reason I have no idea why they have chosen to take up such an inflammatory position when level headed, unbiased, objective reporting is called for.