Three months after the brutal killing of George Floyd while in police custody in Minneapolis, violence still plagues many of our major cities in America. It receives scant coverage from the liberal mainstream media because to publicize it more would distract from the righteous cause of seeking racial justice and risk losing some support for it. But there’s too much violence for the media to ignore completely, so when it is covered, the accounts always include the same detailed description of how Mr. Floyd died with the knee of a White policeman pressed against his neck as he struggled to breathe and pleaded for his life while three other policemen involved did nothing to help him.
The horrific scene is, or should be by now, etched in the minds of everyone who watched the TV images of George Floyd’s final moments of life, so why the repetition? Possibly because Americans need constant reminding of what initially sparked the demonstrations against police brutality which sometimes turned violent. The public has a short attention span and can easily be distracted by other concerns that affect us more directly and personally like living with a deadly pandemic, losing a job or a business, school closings, paying bills, caring for elderly parents and feeding our families.
What started out as a protest against excessive use of force by police against Blacks has since morphed into a much broader movement against systemic racial injustice. The former can, and hopefully will, be addressed effectively and promptly by sensible and needed reforms to law enforcement such as better training, better psychological testing of potential recruits and more effective recruiting methods. The latter requires transformational change and will take much longer, despite the urgency and the demands of activists, because it involves changes to our very culture. It also requires the creation of economic opportunities which will be especially challenging now in an economy that will be struggling to recover from the effects of the pandemic.
The anger and rage precipitated by the death of Mr. Floyd was understandable but acting out the rage did not honor his memory and the violence and destruction that followed was unproductive because violence and destruction do not attract genuine support or sympathy, even for a righteous cause. Indeed, the organizers of the rioting that resulted in burned and looted businesses, attacks against police and bystanders, blocked streets and highways, harassed and terrorized motorists and occupied sections of cities probably cared little about George Floyd, his memory or the cause of racial justice. They simply seized an opportunity to highjack a movement that was commanding national attention.
The initial anger and rage led to some senseless and unrealistic demands, the worst of which was to defund and even abolish police departments. Officials who supported such demands, mostly in Democrat-run cities like Seattle, Portland, Minneapolis, Austin and New York, simply surrendered to mob mentality or, to put it more politely, group thinking. A recent Gallup poll indicated that 67% of Americans and 61% of Black Americans wanted police presence in their neighborhoods to remain the same and about 20% of both groups actually wanted it increased. Just 15% said they wanted to abolish the police. Nevertheless, Democrat leaders in those cities, yielding to the demands of activists, took steps to reduce police department budgets or, in the case of Minneapolis, to abolish the police department altogether in spite of sharply rising crime rates that are affecting minority communities the most. Voters should remember this when they cast their ballots. Those politicians that failed to keep their citizens safe, which is their primary responsibility, should be held accountable.
The violence and destruction is occurring mostly in Democrat-run cities. But instead of condemning the violence and acting promptly to protect the victims and public and private property, they have too-often just stood by, declined to use National Guard forces or accept federal law enforcement assistance and sometimes even sympathized with the perpetrators of the violence. To compound this malfeasance, they are making matters worse by reducing police budgets and imposing additional restrictions on police use of non-lethal force. To institute needed changes in law enforcement, including increased training will require more, not less funding. Since resignations and early retirements are increasing due to lack of support and violence against police, salary and benefits will almost certainly need to be raised, not reduced, in order to attract qualified people. And increased restrictions on the use of non-lethal methods like tear gas and rubber bullets will almost certainly result in greater reliance on lethal methods.
What was a just cause, racial justice, has been highjacked by those who want to achieve power and radical change by first creating chaos. Many of the organizers are university-educated White elites who probably care as little about George Floyd or his memory as those criminals who burned and looted stores did. The Democrat mayors who have failed to control this have allowed their cities to become crime and gang-infested cesspools of violence. Residents and business owners who can afford to are already abandoning these cities or are planning to. Their city officials have already abandoned them, so why should they stay?
Dr. Kelly is a freelance writer and retired Navy Captain who commanded three San Diego-based ships and a personnel research and development center and taught ship handling, seamanship and navigation at Naval Base San Diego. He earned his doctorate in education at USD, taught graduate students and was a senior vice-president at Great American Bank. He has written over 1500 newspaper and journal articles and has been a regular contributor to the Eagle & Journal since 2001.