The news in the George Floyd murder case keeps getting worse. First, that horrifying video from Tuesday, May 26, 2020 of White Minneapolis police officer, Derek Chauvin, with his knee on Black George Floyd’s neck while Floyd’s life slipped away. And then protests Tuesday night, escalating into riots, looting, and burning by Thursday, burning down a police station overnight Thursday and the Minnesota National Guard called in Friday morning. Oh – yeah – and President Trump threw gasoline on the fire with his Thursday overnight tweets, and some idiots in uniform arrested Omar Jimenez and a CNN news crew Friday morning. Minnesota Governor Walz apologized for that. And more burning and looting overnight Friday.
I have the same reaction as most people. That video, and all the other videos I can find of the incident from different angles, showed a murder. I’m a middle-aged white guy and I’ll argue with anyone who says I grew up with any privileges, but I’ve never been hassled by the police. My African-American friend, Jim, has. Lots of times. So has his son. And many other members of his family. Just because they’re Black. Another senseless murder left them frustrated and angry and they want to see justice. Me too.
Jim and I also agree, the subsequent looting and destruction is senseless. How does a mob breaking into a liquor store and stealing all its inventory protest George Floyd’s murder? What message does burning a barbershop–owned by a black man– to the ground send to the world? Since when did protesting mean burning down neighborhood businesses? And if outside agitators really are in my city and organizing riots, I hope we find those slimebags and prosecute them. They don’t represent me or anyone I know.
While dozens of looters on national TV walked in the back door of a liquor store and walked out with as much booze as they could carry, Fox News showed one idiot carry his loot to his car, parked in front of the store with the hazard lights on. He unlocked his car door, popped the trunk, set his haul in the trunk, closed it, and drove away. Just like buying groceries, except he didn’t bother to pay this time. The camera zoomed in on his license plate.
I broke down and bawled about all this Thursday. I’m old enough to remember the riots from the 1960s after the Martin Luther King murder. I still remember, “Burn, baby, burn,” from that era. But this time is different. Maybe because I’m older and I better comprehend what’s going on. Maybe because this one is close to home. But the question that keeps going through my mind is, what would I do if I were in any of those crowds?
Back to the George Floyd murder video. A brave, seventeen year old girl captured and posted that video, while a crowd pleaded with police to get off that guy’s neck. What would I do if I were in that crowd? Would I confront these authority figures to aid somebody in obvious distress? Would I try to organize the crowd to help push Chauvin off George Floyd’s neck? Would I walk away? Would I plead with the police? My answer is, I don’t know. Even with the benefit of hindsight, I’m still not sure what the right response would be.
How is anyone in that crowd supposed to trust the police to protect and serve when four police officers murder a man right in front of their eyes?
And then to the riot videos. What would I do if I found myself in those crowds? Would I try to be a voice of reason? Would I get caught up with the mob? Would I walk away? What’s the right thing to do?
And even now, sitting in my house and twenty minutes by car away from the TV cameras and mayhem, how do I respond if a mob invades my neighborhood? I hope I don’t need to find out. But as I compose this at 4:30 a.m Saturday morning, I hear far-away sirens and distant voices. One hour ’till dawn.