Crime, Journalism, Must Reads

Condemn this Violence without Equivocation

I thank God that the brutal and senseless killing of George Floyd—an unarmed black man—by the white Minneapolis police officer, Derek Chauvin, was captured on video for all the world to see. That shocking episode provides irrefutable evidence—yet again—of the callous, corrupt, and inhumane practices that are being used by some of those to whom we have granted the fearsome authority and weighty responsibility of policing the streets of our cities. Chauvin’s behavior (and that of his fellow officers, who are depicted in the video standing idly by for what seems like an eternity, while Chauvin casually kneels on Floyd’s neck choking the life out of him) is contemptible, enraging, and entirely unacceptable. This would be true, of course, regardless of the victim’s or the policeman’s race. Yet, given our country’s history, when the murderous cop is white and the dead civilian is black, it is truer still. So, it is essential that those who committed this apparent crime be held accountable in a duly constituted court and, should they be found guilty, punished to the fullest extent of the law.

We have been here too many times before in recent years, and many of us have had quite enough. Crowds of angry Americans from every racial group and all walks of life have spilled into the streets, vociferously protesting this instance of racial injustice and police brutality. The protests are not merely the legitimate exercise of constitutional rights to assemble and to petition our government—they are essential for sustaining the moral health of our democracy. Protestors—the vast majority of whom have gathered peacefully to make their voices heard—render a vital public service with their insistent demands for change. Their anger is fully justified. Their impatience is entirely understandable. They must not be ignored.

But not all protests have been peaceful and not every protestor has behaved righteously. In cities across our country we have witnessed, often in real time, violent attacks on the police, looting of commercial outlets, and torching of the property of innocent bystanders. That is, some of the protests have descended into riots. This rioting is also contemptible, and it, too, demands our unreserved condemnation.

Not only are theft, arson, and violence immoral, but they are also politically counterproductive. It should be obvious that the outrageous injustice apparently perpetrated against George Floyd can in no way justify or excuse the criminal behaviors of those few who are using the chaos of mass protests as a cover for their sprees of looting, arson, and mayhem. No civilized society can allow righteous anger to become a license for indulging one’s basest instincts. The violence, arson, and theft must stop. And so long as they continue, they must be forcefully condemned.

To condemn the rioting—which I believe to be a moral and political imperative—is not at all the same thing as opposing the protests. Many observers have been reluctant to do the former because they wish to avoid the latter. I maintain that this is a grave mistake. On the contrary, sympathy for the protesters’ reform agenda would seem to require condemning the nefarious deeds of looters and arsonists. For the rioting plays right into the hands of those political forces that are least sympathetic to the interests of poor communities of color. Mark my words: The violence from these protests will, if it persists, provoke a vicious backlash. It will discourage people from viewing the plight of the minority poor with compassion and understanding.

This backlash of revulsion at the images of anarchy in our cities, now being broadcast into voters’ homes in every suburban and exurban hamlet daily, will be felt not only on the far-right of the political spectrum. The rioters—who aim to inflict injury on the cops; who help themselves to the electronics and the clothing inventories of looted department stores; who willfully destroy the small businesses of (often non-white) merchants whose shops took a lifetime to build—are going a long way toward solving President Trump’s re-election problems for him, if history is any guide. They are placing the Democrats in a very difficult position, even as they act in ways that appear to vindicate Trump’s darkest visions of America.

Americans are in a very dangerous situation now. We stand on the brink of a widespread epidemic of civil unrest whose ultimate consequences are difficult to reckon. All it may take is just one political assassination; one mistaken shot fired by a nervous, frightened young National Guardsman confronting a raucous mob; one enraged immigrant shopkeeper who guns down a black youngster trying to loot his store; for all hell to break loose. The dry tinder lies at hand, needing only a spark to start a conflagration. There are opportunists in our midst who would hope this might be so. Which is why I insist that progressive intellectuals who make excuses for street violence, even in the face of the awful killing of George Floyd, are making a monumental moral and political error.

 

Glenn Loury is a professor of economics and faculty fellow at the Watson Institute at Brown University. You can follow him on Twitter @GlennLoury.

Feature image: A worker cleans up the front of a damaged bank in the aftermath of rioting near the White House in Washington, D.C. on June 1st, 2020. (Photo by MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images.)

Comments

  1. Protests, good. Riots, bad.

    And statements of the obvious.

    I was hoping for something a little more substantial from this article. It reads more like a letter to the editor.

  2. People condemning rioters and looters based on a political calculation of whether or not it helps Trump are misguided. If it is morally wrong then it should be condemned solely on those grounds. It really seems the media and Democratic Party leaders know what they are doing and have decided this will help Democrats. I find it impossible to escape that conclusion watching the coverage. I don’t think the media would do anything to help Trump intentionally. They really seem to be counting on an overreaction by Trump, or, as the article indicates, some tragic escalation in violence they think will work to their advantage and allow them to blame Trump. What if a trigger happy peacekeeper kills an innocent bystander? I think this is what they are banking on in order to propel Biden to victory.

  3. I quote: “The protests are not merely the legitimate exercise of constitutional rights to assemble and to petition our government—they are essential for sustaining the moral health of our democracy.”

    No. They really aren’t. Also, the author is playing pretend here. Large scale protests in America are very rarely non-violent and often involve violence and looting. This is the reality. If you support the protesters you’re also supporting all of the damage, vandalism and violence they’re responsible for. Academics often confuse the theoretical with the real; it’s why they’ll continue to believe socialism or communism can function in the real world despite the truth that it never has.

    I think we need to stop supporting the ‘protesters’ and the media supplying piss poor justifications for their actions. Both cause societal harm.

  4. There are opportunists in our midst who would hope this might be so. Which is why I insist that progressive intellectuals who make excuses for street violence, even in the face of the awful killing of George Floyd, are making a monumental moral and political error.

    Hammer, meet nail-head. They are not making a mistake, it is exactly what they want to happen. Already mentioned here:

    There are only a few ideologies in which the ends are said to justify the means and so the other must be lied to until exterminated. Leftism, islam, etc. They are quite open about their goals.

  5. They weren’t so essential two weeks ago in Michigan, though, were they!

  6. Everybody deserves due process including police officers.
    What was captured on video was not “the brutal and senseless killing of George Floyd–an unarmed black man—by the white Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin.” It was the dying of a man named George Floyd. Police Officer Derek Chauvin’s role in that death has not yet been determined.
    Officer Derek Chauvin has been on the police force apparently for some 19 years and as far I’ve read he has not been accused of racism in all those 19 years and the mass media has presented no evidence of him ever acting in a racist manner. It seems strange to me that he would suddenly decide in front of a crowd of black people who were video-taping him that he would suddenly decide to hurt or murder a black man without provocation or reason.
    The official autopsy found this:

    "It is noted that no life-threatening injuries were identified in Floyd.

    A postmortem nasal swab was taken, which confirmed that Floyd was positive for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. It is noted that Floyd was known to be positive for COVID-19 on April 3. The postmortem positivity likely reflects asymptomatic but persistent PCR positivity from previous infection, the report said.

    Floyd’s toxicology report showed that he had fentanyl and methamphetamine in his system when he died." (from https://www.google.com/search?client=firefox-b-1-d&q=drug+fanatyl)
    Fentanyl is “50 to 100 times more potent than morphine,” according to the CDC (https://www.cdc.gov/drugoverdose/opioids/fentanyl.html.
    From February 2018 to February 2019, there were about 69,000 drug deaths according to the CDC. 47% or these or 34,000 involved Fentanyl. Assuming black people use Fentanyl at an equal rate to white people, we can conclude that 14% of 34,000 would be about 4760 deaths of black people a year due to Fentanyl.
    On the other hand 9 unarmed black people were killed by police in 2019.
    Given these facts, it seems overwhelmingly probable that Fentanyl and not the actions of the police were responsible. It is at least 476 times more probable that Fentanyl was responsible and not the police officers.
    The indictment of the Police officers were entirely political, but mob justice is never justice no matter who it is aimed at.
    The complex economic, social, and historical causes of poverty and alienation of multiple groups in America should be examined scientifically and the psychological myths of evil beings and devils that groups make up for their own narrow interests should be rejected. They help no-one to understand or know anything, least of all the groups promoting them.

  7. “The dry tinder lies at hand, needing only a spark to start a conflagration. There are opportunists in our midst who would hope this might be so. Which is why I insist that progressive intellectuals who make excuses for street violence, even in the face of the awful killing of George Floyd, are making a monumental moral and political error.”

    Doctor Loury, The forceful political statement about excessive violence was already made with the burning of the precinct from which those officers operated.

    At this point, igniting catastrophically violent civil unrest is exactly what progressive intellectuals have been planning and hoping for, all along. The cooler Liberal thinkers have been marginalized and a violent response is essential in de-legitimizing America’s existing form of governance.

    Thank you for publishing the article, but the provocateurs that are its intended audience have no intention of bringing about any sort of peaceful resolution.

  8. It may be strange to some people but I have sympathy for the police and the so called thugs. If you are surrounded by violence daily you immediately respond violently. In fact the more you live with violence the less it concerns you viz. the absolute savagery of war. Its innate in human beings and all the laws are just a small valve that makes people hesitate however murders always occur and the law has never stopped crime otherwise we would no need a police force.

    The sheer lunacy that introducing another law to prevent this event re-occuring is pure “political claptrap”

    If you remove desperation from society and give people a purpose and reasons for living, violence dissipates. The only violence you see in so-called “rich” neigbourhoods is domestic violence.

    The ridiculous assumptions regarding racism never stand up to scrutiny. Dislike for people from another culture is simply discomfort that “those” people do things differently and believe in different things. It doesnt matter if they are black, blue, yellow, white or brown …human beings are always discomforted by cultures different from their own. Open you eyes and tell me any nation that genuinely invites another culture into their neighbourhood.

    Human beings are all motivated by insecurity and fear The black Americans fear the Hispanics coming into their “hood”. The Hispanics fear Koreans taking over their businesses. The Chinese have a historical dislike for the Japanese and vice-versa. The list goes on …have a look at France and the hidden violence daily.

    The solution is historically taught that you must SLOWLY introduce different cultures if you want success otherwise you immediately fester insecurity and also distrust hence the formation of ghettoes.

    You dont need 6 years at university to understand this !

  9. You saw a single event. Two individuals interacting in a way you responded to with deep emotion. Making that about ALL white people and ALL black people is unreasonable. Also, to think ALL police are bad or behave badly because of this event ignores the reality that police are involved in high stress life or death situations daily and do far more good than evil the majority of the time. It’s not realistic to believe this event characterizes ALL police.

    The media have created a narrative, a story, around this happening. It’s a simple story of good and evil; that’s what sells. The narrative comfortably fits the propaganda stream the PC cultists want to propagate.

    Now we have riots, vandalism, violence and reinforced beliefs that all whites are inherently racist and all black people are downtrodden victims. Think about the damage in the present and the damage in the future this story is causing. The division, damage and lasting hatred stirred up here will result in infinitely more negativity than positivity. That’s obvious.

    Also, the events and media coming out of the United States are effecting Canada and other countries in negative ways. The lack of rationality, the approach of turning it into entertainment, leaders and media fanning flames… These are a cancer in society.

    Why is no one blaming individuals for individual actions?

  10. 41 unarmed people of which 19 blacks were killed by the police in 2019. The chance for an unarmed black person to be killed is about 1/30th of the chance to be struck by lightning, i.e. 1 in 2,000,000. The probability for a black person to be killed by another black person is 1 in 20,000, about 3x the probability of being killed by lightning. (And these rates are enormously smaller for people that stay out of bad areas and act wisely, e.g. women.)

    Any death is too many, but in a country with 320 million citizens and 400 million guns, those stats are not in any way outrageous, are they? If so, what would be acceptable?

    Shouldn’t we focus our energy on reducing black-on-black violence since that has a 100x higher rate?

  11. Are these still peaceful protestors expressing themselves as is their right?
    It has been nine days and nights. How many innocent people must be shot, beaten senseless or dead (the media is not telling us the result of the beatings), how many small businesses destroyed, how many lives shattered, how many billions of dollars lost? When do we know the “protestations” have been “heard?” Oh, and are they not spreading Covid-19, and going to overwhelm our hospitals that we cannot even enter?
    This morning I spoke to a dear friend, a sole proprietor of an extremely important shop in a small city thought to be one of the best protected in the country. His store was trashed - a lifetime of work. He explained that while the police were overwhelmed trying to control an enormous crowd of “peaceful protestors,” which they could not, as 3 police cruisers were trashed and much other damage took place in the most important part of town (I watched this on TV), the “few bad apples” had a field day destroying other businesses a short distance away.
    This had gone on in areas all over the huge metro area I am in for 8 days and nights. The orchestration is almost scientific, the enormous crowds overwhelm the police while the very large numbers of violent thugs destroy the commercial area, then the crowds and thugs move on. It is the systematic destruction of the vast majority of larger cities in the US. It is now obvious that the police cannot protect business, why should we believe our homes are better protected. I talk to people in my large state and many are cowering in their homes.
    This has been the dream of the left for over fifty years. They are now destroying their devil - America. And after fifty years of indoctrinating college graduates, we are led, with a few brave exceptions, by people who are proponents of this destruction. They have their battle-trained militias of antifa, BLM, inner city gangs, and their often naive supporters numbering in the tens of millions. And virtually every leader in the country from the mayors to the Hollywood stars to the media is winking at them or outright supporting them. This is precisely the dream of the left. Will this be the first time in history after what is effectively a violent takeover by the left that they will be capable of rebuilding?
    And I ask again, at this point, are these really still just “peaceful protestors?”

  12. I thoroughly agree. The gullible black population has been traumatized by the Left, traumatized, and mesmerized. I say this as someone who was a CORE member and who was at the Meredith Riots at Ole Miss., among other Civil Rights struggles. Under the barrage of identity politics, its thoroughly corrupt so-called leadership, and constant saturation of political and media lies, I think the black community is suffering from som,e form of mass narcissistic personality disorder in which they believe that the entire cosmos is out to destroy them. My father was a labor leader and a member of the AFL-CIO executive council, and a fervent supporter of the Democratic Party. (That Democratic Party has been taken over by anarchists and the far Left.) I am married, twenty-five years, to a woman of West Indian heritage. We have two sons of mixed race so I have a vested interest. We’re on our way to major depression, tens of millions out of work, and this is the time to burn down cities? This is madness. Cities do not recover from this lawless violence and destruction. Detroit didn’t Harlem didn’t. And other cities … hey this getting a little old, isn’t it? I think, by this time, we all get it. Consider this: three white women, mothers and “church ladies”, in Durham, Tennessee, were brutally stabbed to death April 9, a mere three weeks ago, by a black Muslim who’s race was omitted from the three outlets that even mentioned it. He was described as "a trucker, or “a Durham man.” He laid in wait for them to show up for work and murdered them. He had described them as “Karens” and “Betsy’s.” A Black racist slur for white women. There was no known reason except racism. Is that “justice?” Is it right for the media to censor it? Perhaps if they had published it, it might have provided some perspective on this eruption of violent righteousness. Early in my writing career, I was a blotter reporter in New York and in several cities in Texas. I know what cops are up against. There is six times the black on white violence than white on black violence in the US. These are facts. And the black population is just 13% I’m not denying that what happened to Lloyd was horrific and should never have happened, but this kind of destruction is never justified. Never. Without the law, we’re all lost, black, and white. We are on our way to a major depression because of the lockdown and this is the time to burn down cities?

  13. It is distressing to me that speaking out against the violence is being conflated with being “against” the protest. At the same time, I must confess, I see the protest as a swarm of useful idiots chasing windmills. They simply cannot grasp the other side of the story; it has become “racist” to cite black crime statistics, “racist” to suggest that lowering standards to accommodate black students does them a disservice, “racist” to suggest that if you don’t do the crime, you don’t do the time…“racist” to point out that an epidemic of single mothers and black kids who don’t know their fathers plays a role. Can’t say that welfare had anything to do with the issues black Americans face today…no…must trace it back to slavery or, in more generous moments, Jim Crow.

    I feel utterly trapped in a toxic narrative that is going to take us down the toilet faster than you can say George Floyd. The self-flagellation on social media is sickening to watch. The utter lack of self-awareness – of reality…Useful idiots posting what to read like religious literature…“How to unlearn whiteness…” invoked my visit to the Genocide Museum in Phnom Penh… where do you fall on the “Racism Scale”?

    THERE ARE NO EXONERATING ANSWERS.

    If you aren’t marching and “speaking out” “You are part of the problem”

    I never thought I would have to live through something as irrational as this.

    I’m having nightmares of walking down the street minding my own business when someone comes along to force me to kneel or otherwise get my ass kicked.

    Last month’s moral certitude was that if you think those less vulnerable to the virus go back out there, and just quarantine the vulnerable instead, “you don’t care about people who are different from yourself.”

    Never mind that this argument supported the people going bankrupt due to shuttering their businesses. No – they’re not the right people to care about. And now these same people have pushed them over the edge.

    We’re screwed, and what’s worse is the SYSTEM they are creating to vilify anyone who speaks against it.

  14. The problems of American policing are manifold. Many municipalities don’t have the money to train their police officers adequately, and their salaries in many jurisdictions simply aren’t enough to attract a sufficient pool of candidates to exercise the right level of scrutiny and selectivity in recruitment. Many municipalities will accept diplomas from fees supported colleges as proof of suitability for the job. Although the total number of police in America is roughly commensurate with other OECD countries, their workload is far worse, with American Police Officers routinely having to deal with seven times the frequency of violence as in other Developed Nations.

    And there’s the rub- Police in America are systemically exposed to situations that are not conducive to sanity or mental health in general. I was much heartened to hear Joe Rogan mention as much in his recent podcast with Krystal Ball and Saagar Enjeti, from The Hill’s Rising programme. If we look at the low level physical symptoms experienced by police- the lower back pains, the tension headaches and general fatigue- paired with life outcomes that include divorce and family dissolution, a higher rate of suicidality and addiction to pain meds- then it relatively easy to extrapolate that what we are actually witnessing is a mental health crisis, within the ranks of the police.

    Policing at its best relies on highly empathetic and trained observation when interacting with the public, to achieve a model that is largely Policing by Consent in most circumstances. In circumstances where a significant portion of the workforce are effectively walking wounded suffering, by varying degrees, from PTSD and PTED, then empathy driven interactions are all but impossible.

    It also doesn’t help that historically policing has been a macho culture in which individual are expected to tough it out and suck it up, and where more candid interactions with police psychologists can result in a change of duties, or a loss of pay and benefits.

    Ultimately though, Police are both victims of and subject to availability heuristics. Because, over time, adverse reactions to a minority of individuals in high crime communities, can cause a pathology which amount to a knee jerk reaction when dealing with all young male individuals within the community- when often the most marginal cases are the ones that require the most empathy and steering onto a better path. At the same time, the very same availability heuristic is applied to them- when the Left argues that the hugely successful Proactive Policing school is condemned as uniformly racist and relatively rare instances are taken as the norm.

    On the subject of Proactive Policing, this was exactly the same strategy that was deployed in Scotland to a population that was 99% White- taking Glasgow from being the Knife Crime capital of Europe and ultimately reduced the whole of Scotland’s violent crime statistics to amongst the lowest in Europe. If there is a criticism to be made of America’s use of Proactive Policing it should be that the vital community resourcing that helps make Proactive Policing so successful, is often lacking in relation to communities of colour.

    It’s a complex issue that requires subtlety and nuance- two things which are rarely evidenced when race is interjected into the mix.

  15. This article was weak. It should go without saying that this violence should be condemned. Lowering the bar to such pathetic levels is just embarrassing. If we want to actually address the riots, we need to talk about their source: the protests.

    Many people have been keen to draw a sharp distinction, but I’m not so charitable. Why are these people protesting? If it’s against police brutality, then they are stupid for thinking anyone is in favour of police brutality. If it’s against systemic racism, then they are unforgivably ignorant and incurious for not learning that black people are not disproportionately targeted by police.

    But this is the wrong perspective. These young protesters aren’t motivated by their stupidity or ignorance, they are motivated by the need to virtue signal. It simply doesn’t matter to them that no one is in favour of police brutality or what an honest treatment of the statistics reveals.

    And it is precisely because these protests are based not on facts but on a cultish veneration of Black Man As Martyr that these kinds of protests always include rioting. The very foundation of the protest excuses black men of anything and everything, so of course you’ll get some taking advantage. They are being invited to act with impunity by protesters who have set up the ideological framework that absolves them of their crimes and offers both physical and social cover. The riots are just a natural outgrowth of leftist ideology, so we must not let the left off the hook.

    And @pkolloch, Europe has so far had the luxury of relaxed policing because they don’t have a large, culturally-distinct underclass necessitating a more serious approach. Now that you have let in a bunch of people who will never be as useful to society as native Europeans, but have a high birthrate, expect your police to have to get similarly “militarized” by century’s end.

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