A man died while in police custody. Even in ordinary times, that sparks outrage… how much more in emotionally charges times like this. But for anyone whose goal is ‘justice’, a crime spree is hurting your own cause.
There’s a reason we waited before jumping into this charged topic. We cover the news stories of the day, but getting a story RIGHT is more important to us than getting it FIRST. We’re glad we did because while we were waiting for information to come out (which it has) opportunists across the political spectrum used this event to retreat to their favorite well-worn narratives.
Why We Waited…
We heard no end of stories about good guys, bad guys, and sweeping generalities about groups of people based on demographic or profession. What they all had in common was that they were driven by opinion and emotion, but very little fact.
And the people that shout loudest this time have steered us wrong before — often inflaming tensions and issues over a localized event beyond any rational response. They assume the worst and act accordingly. Years later, we hear the same bogus talking points get recirculated by activists with an agenda.
Looking To The Founders…
In events such as this one, we take our cue from the example of none other than John Adams and the Boston Massacre case. Civilians were killed. Soldiers in authority killed them. But they deserve their day in court before judgment is rendered on their actions.
Like today, a mob was outraged about a terrible abuse of power. Unlike today, there was confidence in the legal system to fairly determine questions of innocence or guilt.
Our views on the police…
ClashDaily has the utmost respect for those in blue who uphold the law as they have sworn to do. We have often defended the honor of police acting in good faith when they were accused in cases of wrongful death. But that courtesy only extends to police acting in good faith.
That same respect we have for the men and women in blue compels us to call anyone whose individual actions bring reproach to the good name and professional reputation of the rest.
Lawful use of force, and its limits…
When the State confers the lawful power to use force against a civilian population in order to Keep the Peace, there comes a responsibility to use that power in a way that does no harm. Civilians cannot defend themselves in a confrontation with police. We have no recourse but to obey or have efforts to subdue us escalate proportionately.
Because citizens have no lawful right to defend ourselves in such an encounter, officers are responsible for the health, safety, security and wellbeing of those in their charge. When someone dies in a situation — especially where it becomes evident that subdual involved a knee on the neck of the civilian — a criminal investigation, and (potentially) criminal charges are appropriate.
THIS CLASHDAILY EDITOR’S TAKEAWAYS
On the face of it, this looks like an open and shut case of criminality. But no matter how ‘cut and dried’ it appears, just as it was with the Redcoats in Boston, guilt must be proven and never assumed. Some day your OWN liberty may rest upon that assumption.
Was this a freak accident, or abuse? We have clues, and opinions. The evidence we have seen so far is absolutely damning but each of the officers involved can and should get his day in court. And those found guilty should have the book thrown at them.
Was there a racial component to this interaction, and did that play into George Floyd’s death?
Simply put, we do not know. Saying otherwise cheapens the seriousness of racial charges either way. In fact, the overuse of phrases like ‘racially motivated’ has cheapened and diluted the seriousness of that claim overall. If drinking white milk or flashing the OK sign means ‘racist’, we have robbed ourselves of any word useful for describing a situation of this degree of seriousness if and when it applies.
At least one of the officers present in the arrest/subdual of Floyd was white. But not all of the officers present were even white. This situation may actually point to a different problem. Misdiagnosis of a problem will lead to applying the wrong remedy, which often only makes the problem you’re trying to solve worse.
Reasons to hold off on playing the race card…
-We don’t yet have the facts.
-Some people and groups on both sides of the equation profit off racial tension, either financially, or in other ways.
-Overuse cheapens and waters down the meaning of the accusation… losing its potency.
-It can escalate the problem and create new ones.
WRONG RESPONSES TO FLOYD’S DEATH
Defaulting to Cliche Narratives…
Defaulting to cliche racial narratives, whether ‘systemic racism’ and ‘death by cop’ (statistics do not support the popular narrative) on one side or blame-the-victim, had it coming thinking or drawing inferences from useless demographic generalizations about George Floyd on the other side accomplishes nothing.
George Floyd was not a racial group, a statistic, or a helpful narrative for a cause — political or otherwise. He was a man.
He was a man who died abruptly in police custody. And his death deserves a full accounting. To view him in any other way, so far as this context goes, is to dishonor him, and to exploit his misfortune for some unrelated end.
If you loot and torch stores etc in your community, you forfeit any claim of supporting a righteous cause… even if the original cause was a just one. Worse, you instantly lose credibility with those who may have been sympathetic to your real grievances. That includes people across political lines.
Looting and torching businesses hurts your community. What does stealing TVs and clothes from a Target actually accomplish? Or burning it down? Nothing.
Mass vandalism and theft reflects badly on a community as a whole. (You come off not looking like you care about George Floyd, but like angry malcontents exploiting an opportunity for mayhem and theft.)
Riots cost jobs, and discourage investment. It was stores like this torched Target — only a few weeks ago — that were hailed as ‘heroic’ for continuing to serve their community by remaining open through the shutdown. Now they’ve been burned to the ground.
Will they rebuild? Why should they bother? Why invest in a community that would gladly rob them blind and burn them down at the slightest provocation?
Ask yourself, how could video clips like this:
At the Target in Minneapolis that was being looted tonight during the BLM riot, a woman in a wheelchair was attacked. pic.twitter.com/JxsXTB30xI
— Andy Ngô (@MrAndyNgo) May 28, 2020
…possibly serve to help George Floyd and his family get any measure of justice? If anything, it could distract from and diminish his story.
The burning, looting and generalized violence in the aftermath will, for many, BECOME the story and eclipse or at least taint the real issues raised in the death of a man in police custody.
People across political lines are agreeing that this was most likely a preventable and avoidable death and that we should take steps to see that it never happens again, and if criminal wrongdoing is identified, those responsible for wrongdoing be held accountable.
Hold an Investigation.
Conduct an honest criminal trial, if the investigation leads to charges.
Apply policy and/or training changes in how police approach subdual of a noncompliant individual during an arrest.
Did we miss anything?