June 1, 2020

Police Protests

Tense protests over the death of George Floyd and other police killings of black people grew Saturday from New York to Tulsa to Los Angeles, with police cars set ablaze and reports of injuries mounting on all sides as the country convulsed through another night of unrest after months of coronavirus lockdowns.” AP News

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From the Left

The left highlights racial inequities within the criminal justice system, and argues that systemic changes must be made or civil unrest is likely to continue.

“A phony $20 bill? And the man is dead? It’s beyond comprehension. Beyond explanation. But this is the pattern, the maddening pattern, that so many of us who are not African American can empathize with but never truly absorb. Because death by police, for black people in this country, is too often over nothing. A $20 bill. Someone selling illegal cigarettes. A cellphone or bottle of pills assumed to be a gun...

“Unarmed, yet shot. Unarmed, yet strangled. Unarmed, yet dead. George Floyd is not the first black man to die from a white cop’s indifference. He’s not even the first to die from a chokehold. When something unforgivable happens over and over again, what are people to do? Where does the grief and the anger go?”
Mitch Albom, Detroit Free Press

“Black people are about twice as likely as white people to be pulled over by law enforcement for a traffic stop… Black Americans are much more likely to be arrested and charged for drug-related crimes, despite no significant disparity in how much those populations actually use narcotics…White defendants are substantially more likely than black defendants to have their most serious charge dismissed as part of a plea bargain. Even when black men and white men are convicted of the same crime, the black men can expect a prison sentence that is 20 percent longer…

“[One study] found black Americans were less likely to have their complaints against law enforcement officers sustained compared to complaints by white people. That was especially true for complaints of excessive force… The list could go on. But the point is made. Racial discrimination is pervasive in American criminal justice, manifesting in every step from arrest to trial to conviction and incarceration.”
Dylan Scott, Vox

“When you are oppressed there is no acceptable way to fight against your oppression. You get branded ‘unpatriotic’ for peacefully taking a knee to protest against police brutality. You get vilified for using boycotts as a non-violent tool of resistance. You get called ‘THUGS’ when, after the murder of yet another unarmed black man by the police, you protest in the streets… If violent unrest isn’t the answer then what is? How exactly do you go about ending police brutality and systemic racism in America?”
Arwa Mahdawi, The Guardian

“New York police drove an SUV through a crowd of protesters in the Flatbush neighborhood of Brooklyn; by sheer good luck, no one was seriously hurt. In Atlanta, police assaulted two people in a car for no evident reason, smashing the windows, subduing the couple with Tasers and forcibly dragging them from the vehicle. In Erie, Pennsylvania, a young woman was maced and then kicked by police while she was sitting on the ground. In Salt Lake City, an officer shoved an elderly man with a cane to the street… Numerous journalists have been shot, beaten, attacked or arrested by police…

“If you want to argue that ‘violence’ — a term that lacks a clear definition — is always pointless and never accomplishes anything, then I would suggest that you read some history about the French Revolution or the American Revolution or the ANC under apartheid or the IRA or the anti-colonialist and anti-imperialist movements of the '60s and '70s… But first of all, try to tell that one to America's cops. They don't seem to agree.”
Andrew O'Hehir, Salon

“The demonstrations around the country take as their starting point that police are brutalizing citizens of color. Law-enforcement officers and agencies have two ways to respond: They can affirm that complaint with aggressive policing and overwhelming force, or they can work to show they are on the same side, against brutality.”
David A. Graham, The Atlantic

Some urge that “We must confront the deep legacy of bigotry that leads too many black and brown and immigrant lives to be treated with callous disregard and sometimes become the victims of pure hate. But the answer does not lie in demonizing all police officers or indiscriminately destroying property. That will only spur a backlash and lead some to see moral equivalence between the two sides in the larger struggle between right and wrong. The riots in the late 1960s only succeeded in burning out inner cities and electing Richard Nixon on the back of his Southern strategy…

“We need to learn the lessons of history -- both the legacy of systemic racism and the backlash against social chaos that benefits people who practice the politics of fear and division under the name of law and order. A relatively small number of people acting in bad faith can derail a movement, delay justice and divide a nation. With a presidential election now just five months away we can't let the forces of chaos and conflict win again.”
John Avlon, CNN

From the Right

The right condemns the killing of Floyd, but argues that violence is unacceptable and counterproductive.

The right condemns the killing of Floyd, but argues that violence is unacceptable and counterproductive.

Chauvin should have been arrested days ago, if not immediately. The claim that the prosecutor had to wait to authorize an arrest until the investigators nailed down all the evidence is nonsense… I don’t look at this as a racial issue, or a ‘cops against black men’ issue. It is a matter of equal protection under the law. Any civilian, regardless of race, who did what Chauvin did would have been placed under arrest…

“Investigators did not need to be sure that they could make a third-degree murder charge stick to know that some kind of prosecutable homicide happened in the killing of George Floyd. This was not a fleeting incident, or a situation in which Floyd was resisting — he was pleading for his life. At the very least, this was a negligent homicide.”
Andrew C. McCarthy, National Review

“[Chauvin] was charged Friday with third-degree murder and manslaughter. Good: Police use of such unnecessary force is a betrayal of every good cop and of the public itself. Outrage over it is entirely righteous. But that outrage shouldn’t be directed at innocents and culminate in yet more senseless violence. Another man died in Minneapolis when protests turned violent. Angry mobs set fire to a police precinct and several private businesses…

“The rioters also burned something that would’ve helped the community: the site of an affordable-housing project that was to provide 189 low-income apartments, including dozens of super-low-income ones.”
Editorial Board, New York Post

“We must distinguish rioting and looting from protesting… Look at the long-term studies done on rioting. Riots harm their communities. They don’t reform them. They often initiate a general spike in violent crime. Baltimore saw this spike in the past half-decade. Riots dissuade individuals, families, and businesses from staying in or joining a community. Who wants to raise their kids in the neighborhood where the police station had to be evacuated before it was set ablaze?... George Floyd’s girlfriend said, ‘I am heartbroken. Waking up this morning to see Minneapolis on fire would be something that would devastate Floyd.’”
Michael Brendan Dougherty, National Review

“There is a striking pattern of evidence, teased out in the research of the Princeton political scientist Omar Wasow, showing how peaceful civil rights protests helped Democrats win white votes, and then violence pushed white voters toward Republicans. Looking at data from the civil rights era, Wasow argues that ‘proximity to black-led nonviolent protests increased white Democratic vote-share whereas proximity to black-led violent protests caused substantively important declines’ — enough to tip the 1968 election from Hubert Humphrey to Nixon…

“The political history of both the 1960s and the 2010s suggests a strong presumption against the political effectiveness of looting or vandalism or arson, to go along with the direct costs for the communities where riots are most likely to break out… Martin Luther King Jr. became more politically radical in his last years, but his opposition to rioting was a constant. ‘Every time a riot develops,’ he warned just months before his death, ‘it helps George Wallace.’ If we are headed for a long, hot, virus-shadowed summer, those are words that a liberalism that doesn’t want to help Donald Trump would do well to keep in mind.”
Ross Douthat, New York Times

“The national media have been insisting on the theme of the allegedly brutal Minneapolis police department… [But] Why are the Minneapolis police in black neighborhoods? Because that’s where violent crime is happening, including shootings of two-year-olds and lethal beatings of 75-year-olds. Just as during the Obama years, the discussion of the allegedly oppressive police is being conducted in the complete absence of any recognition of street crime and the breakdown of the black family that drives it…

“Once the violence began, any effort to ‘understand’ it should have stopped, since that understanding is inevitably exculpatory. The looters are not grieving over the stomach-churning arrest and death of George Floyd; they are having the time of their lives. You don’t protest or mourn a victim by stealing oxycontin, electronics, jewelry, and sneakers.”
Heather Mac Donald, City Journal

Some urge that “we as Americans can’t let the smoke obscure the very real issues we must confront… We can’t ignore the issues of inequality in this country. No one can claim with a straight face that black and brown kids in the inner cities get an education equal to what kids in the suburbs receive. No one can deny that minorities find themselves on the wrong end of our justice system in unequal numbers. No one with a heart can watch these murders and not feel deep sadness, anger, and even guilt.”
Arnold Schwarzenegger, The Atlantic

A libertarian's take

Aggressive police tactics are likely going to worsen the situation—after all, the protests began because Minneapolis cops used unnecessarily brutal tactics to subdue and ultimately kill Floyd… it is exactly when tensions are running so high that the police, National Guard, and other law enforcement personnel must keep their cool. Driving a squad car through a group of protesters is never justified. Neither is firing potentially harmful projectiles at Americans who are peacefully standing on their own property, exercising their First Amendment rights.”
Eric Boehm, Reason

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