There are so many layers to the unrest we’ve witnessed this weekend with the protests sparked by the police-involved death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
Here in New York, the vast majority of those who took to the streets demanding justice were peaceful. There were no fewer than a half-dozen protests across the five boroughs on Saturday. Most of them demonstrated their First Amendment rights with respect for the community, the mission and themselves. Police officers largely stood back and let the protests happen with little interference.
But then, in what Mayor Bill de Blasio described as “pockets” of Brooklyn and Manhattan, all hell broke loose.
Physical struggles between cops and protesters.
Police vehicles torched.
And some cops used very questionable force against demonstrators.
Each side blames the other for provocation. Each side has merit in their arguments — yet each side also has responsibility for the chaos that ensued.
Yet this situation is not just about riots; it’s much deeper than that.
Anger and outrage is everywhere, and it is more than justified — though violence isn’t. To not acknowledge and understand that anger and outrage is to willfully ignore the situation.
Look at the nation we live in.
For decades, Black and Hispanic Americans have been treated like second-class citizens by bad cops in police forces across the country. More often than not, acts of unjustified brutality result in exonerations or dead-end investigations, without justice for victims who were harmed or killed without cause.
In the present, the economy is in shambles while more than 100,000 people have died from the COVID-19 pandemic. Even this virus has underscored our unequal society: Most of the victims of this illness are people of color.
The police find themselves in a tough place of their own. The majority of cops who respect an individual’s rights and serve with integrity are tarnished by every bad cop who doesn’t. Every time there’s a police-involved death like Floyd’s, they all take a hit.
They then have to face angry throngs who hurl insults and objects at them. That leads some of those cops to cross the line in an instinctive response to protect their colleagues and themselves. And then they become objects of further scorn.
We are caught as a society in many vicious cycles that, more and more each day, resemble one giant death spiral.
There’s only one way out of it: Changes in government to finally fulfill our American declaration, set 244 years ago, that “all men are created equal.”
And to do that, we must work together — protesters and police, community activists and law enforcement unions, elected leaders and police officials — to rebuild communities and ensure that every police department in America has the best-trained men and women who can keep the peace while always fulfilling “equal justice under the law.”