“Now I do not understand
Why God don’t protect a man
From police brutality.
Being poor and black,
I’ve no weapon to strike back–
So who but the Lord
Can protect me?”
I really don’t have much to say about the recent murders of black citizens by the police, or yahoo’s pretending to be police that real journalists and activists can’t say better. In March three white Louisville cops bust into the wrong apartment and killed Breonna Taylor, 26. Ahmaud Arbery, 25, was essentially lynched, chased down by armed white men and murdered as he jogged through a Georgia neighborhood. And now in Minneapolis there are protests after George Floyd was killed by a policeman supposedly restraining him by kneeling on the 46 year old’s neck. The encounter was recorded by bystanders, some of whom begged the officer to relent while Floyd repeatedly sad “I can’t breathe,” which recalls the 2014 incident that cost Eric Garner his life.
All three incidents are being more aggressively investigated than we are used to. The Louisville police chief Steve Conrad has resigned amid an FBI investigation of the death of Breanna Taylor. While local prosecutors drug their feet, video of Ahmaud Arbery’s lynching (released ironically by an accomplice who seemed to think it was exonerating evidence,) has led to the arrests and hopefully the prosecution of the whole gang. And Mayor Jacob Frey of Minneapolis has called for the arrest of the four (former,) officers involved in Floyd’s death, former because they were immediately fired.
Still, protests are rocking the Minnesota capital, protests that the authorities are treating much differently than the recent incidents of armed white protesters attempting to intimidate lawmakers over the stay at home orders enacted to combat the spread of the Novel Coronavirus, as Salon’s (and friend of Skepchick,) Amanda Marcotte notes…
Those images are much like the ones we’ve grown accustomed to in the era of Black Lives Matter protests (though this time with the addition of face masks): Cops in riot gear striding like conquering soldiers through clouds of tear gas, unarmed protesters running in terror and weeping, surreal images of people’s faces covered in milk as they try to wash the tear gas from their eyes.
But what I can’t get past — and judging from the reactions on social media, I’m not alone — is how wildly different that scene played out compared to the astroturf anti-lockdown protests staged in various state capitals across the country over the past month or so.
In places like Lansing, Michigan, and Columbus, Ohio, right-wing protesters have showed up literally armed to the hilt, carrying assault rifles and menacing state legislators who were simply trying balance public safety and the economic needs of their citizens. In Michigan, protesters literally stormed the state capitol and stood in the galley with guns, in an obvious effort to intimidate the politicians below.
Even the Cheeto Tinted Tyrant seems taken aback tweeting…
At my request, the FBI and the Department of Justice are already well into an investigation as to the very sad and tragic death in Minnesota of George Floyd….
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 27, 2020
This is particularly ironic considering Trump has seemingly encouraged police officers to be more forceful with suspects since his entry into politics…
“Like, don’t hit their head, and they just killed somebody — don’t hit their head,” Trump continued. “I said, you can take the hand away, okay?”
The current protests reminded me of a piece I wrote during the protests in Baltimore after Freddie Gray, 25 was killed while in police custody. A video that captured mom Toya Graham hitting her son as she tried to drive him away from the protests went viral and of course my fellow white people missed the goddamned point. Check out A Mother in Baltimore from our wayback machine.
As a parent I can empathize with Toya Graham, but as a white parent I can only understand her plight from a distance. My children will likely never be treated as Freddie Gray was, and I will never see the need to treat them the way she felt she had to treat her son to keep him safe from a fate akin to Grays. As an advocate for evidence based and nonviolent parenting I cannot condone the physical nature of her intervention, but I can forgive Toya Graham for her fear because that fear is rooted in evidence, in the long line of broken black bodies that our society seems uninterested in protecting from a system that disenfranchises and dehumanises them. I don’t want anyone to be the next Freddie Gray, but using Toya Graham as a prop to further the narrative that young black men can only be controlled by violence is part of the problem, not part of the solution.
Featured Image Credit: Fibonacci Blue on Twitter, shared under a Creative Commons License… Here is their description…
May 26, 2020
Thousands gathered on foot and in cars in south Minneapolis to protest against police violence and call for justice for George Floyd. On May 25, Minneapolis Police officers arrested George Floyd, handcuffed him, then put a knee on his neck as he said he wasn’t able to breath. George Floyd appeared to stop breathing and died soon after. Protesters met in the area of Chicago Avenue and 38th Street, but many blocks in the area had people with signs while others drove by protesting from their cars. People marched east on 38th Street and some worked their way to the Minneapolis 3rd precinct building where there were clashes with police after dark.