For background, protests began in the wake of George Floyd’s death, where former police officer Derek Chauvin kneeled on Floyd's neck for close to nine minutes, causing his death. Floyd's family conducted an independent autopsy, and the cause of death was asphyxiation due to sustained pressure. The United States Constitution’s Sixth Amendment guarantees every citizen the right to a fair trial, but this right, and the right to live, was stripped from Floyd as a cause of our faulty law enforcement system.
Too little officers are held accountable: approximately four in 400 police officers are charged for killing; of these four, only one is ever convicted. I acknowledge that oftentimes, these killings are not against the law, and sometimes police officers must make split-second decisions to protect the safety of themselves and other civilians. However, too many stories have made the news of Black Americans being killed while posing no threat to police officers, and most of the time the officers in questions are not charged with any crimes. The law states that a person must pose a reasonable threat to others to justify using deadly force. With the help of videos and surveillance, we see that too often officers use such force without reasonable threat posed. This causes repetitive tragedies that stem from our failure to hold officers accountable.
These protests have gathered thousands of people every day. In some cases, police officers have kneeled with protestors; in many others, they have retaliated with tear gas, rubber bullets, and even police vehicles. Most protests have opted for a peaceful route. The small minority has turned violent: riots in Minnesota have caused fires and destruction. There have also been many recent occurrences of looting, or taking of goods by force and causing destruction to stores and public buildings. For those living in Palo Alto or near it, such occurrences have hit close to home; curfews have been set to keep people safe, and potential looters have been apprehended.
It is important to note that those who participate in looting during the night rarely overlap with those who march peacefully as protestors during the day. Reporters on scene have made this clear. Looting cannot be tolerated; it is simply bad people riding on this wave of protests who seek to steal, damage, and wreck property with an excuse.
Oftentimes, this can ruin the life’s work of small businesses, and the cost of losing people’s entire means of making money is unimaginable, leaving business owners hopeless and impoverished. Large chain stores like Target, Starbucks and Apple are able to use their large funds to buy policies that insure all losses. However, for small businesses, not all merchandise and property is insured. Business owners who have to pay out-of-pocket for these damages may never recover. In one night, they go from having a stable income to not even knowing how to patch their lives back together.
We cannot confuse these people with those who are trying to peacefully enact change and raise awareness. The actions of looters have corrupted the message of those who are demonstrating without violence, and we must recognize that this should not serve as an excuse to stop listening to the pleas of the vast majority.
Distinguishing these two groups is essential to uncovering the truth: the Black Lives Matter movement is not about inciting violence. It is about justice and equality, and putting an end to police brutality that systemically fails to be held accountable, as well as countless other injustices that black people face on a day-to-day basis.
Protests in Berlin, courtesy of Sean Gallup, NY Times