America Set Ablaze
Call it the straw that broke this country’s back.
Prosecutors in Minneapolis dithered for four days to charge a white police officer who committed an obvious crime, on camera, that resulted in the death of a black man.
The city’s mayor immediately fired the cops involved and called for arrests. Police chiefs across the country spoke out against them. Pundits on conservative Fox News agreed there should be charges. President Donald Trump tweeted on Wednesday that “justice will be served.”
The days passed, and a bewildered public watched in disgust as no arrests were made. Even some of the most ardent supporters of law enforcement -- individuals who proudly wave those black-and-white American flags with the one blue stripe-- conceded on social-media outlets that burying your knee into a man’s neck for close to nine minutes was not an acceptable form of policing.
It took outraged demonstrators burning a police station to the ground before Hennepin County Attorney Michael Freeman finally, belatedly, charged officer Derek Chauvin on Friday with the equivalent of manslaughter, when a charge of second-degree murder would seem more appropriate.
By that time, it was too late. In the public’s collective mind, all confidence that justice would be served in George Floyd’s homicide had been completely lost. We are now seeing the result of that inexplicable four-day delay.
Cities across the nation burned Saturday night, as furious demonstrators clashed with police from coast to coast in scenes that brought back memories of the 1960s civil-rights era.
In the worst night of civil unrest since the aftermath of Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination in 1968, protests and riots erupted in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Washington, D.C., Philadelphia and numerous other cities nationwide, after massive demonstrations took place throughout the day. By Saturday night, widely ignored curfews had been imposed in 25 cities across 16 states, according to CNN.
In Minneapolis, police responded to the fifth day of protests by shooting projectiles at demonstrators for no apparent reason, according to MSNBC correspondent Ali Velshi.
“Without any provocation or warning, they began firing into the crowd,” Velshi told a nationally televised audience Saturday night. “We put our hands up and said, ‘we’re media,’ and they yelled back, ‘we don’t care.’ The police action was, “entirely unprovoked, opening up fire of tear gas, rubber bullets and flash bangs into a crowd that was walking very, very peacefully.”
It didn’t have to be this way. If prosecutors would have brought charges immediately, it is likely all the protests, rioting, looting and clashes would have been avoided. But, once again, since cops are always given the benefit of the doubt, even when there is overwhelming video evidence against them, the public now assumes the end result will be a fait accompli.
Over and over, police have behaved inappropriately, and time and again they have gotten away with it. As Freeman’s delay signaled the broken-record of injustice would continue to play on repeat, the pent-up frustration of an exasperated public finally exploded. Now, a rather diverse group of protesters is calling out in one unified voice.
They are saying we’ve had enough.