George Floyd was killed while pleading “I can’t breathe” as a Minneapolis policeman knelt on his neck. The whole tragedy was recorded and went viral on the Internet. Protests began when Minneapolis police and legal officials delayed bringing charges against the policeman and three colleagues. The protests against police brutality expanded and spread.
Protest marches, gatherings, and demonstrations took place in just about every major US city and hundreds of towns. Within a couple of days protest rallies spread to cities all over the world. Slogans expressing protestors’ focus tended to be about systemic injustice, racial intimidation, rising authoritarianism, militarization of civil police, and white supremacy.
In the USA the main effort was to display solidarity with the grief, outrage, and despair of Black Americans. In a few cities police joined the protestors and even expressed remorse. It was remarkable to see “Black Lives Matter” and “take the knee” be transformed from divisive into unifying symbols. People who would never have joined in kneeling to recognize American flawed justice were down on one knee.
Then, in no time at all, opportunists began to invade, mostly after dark, to loot, burn, and rampage. Some appear to have political agendas involving creation of chaos, venting rage, or raising the specter of civil war. Others stole things. Many rioted with mindless mobs and neither we nor they will ever be clear why.
That could not be tolerated. Police were mobilized. Military vehicles and National Guard (Army) troops clashed with the mobs. Curfews were imposed and fear gripped home owners and shop keepers.
Two sides emerged. One side struggled to keep the story centered on what happened to George Floyd, about injustice and racism. The other side tried to transform all this into an example about how to be more powerful than those trying to undermine authority.
Meanwhile, here in Thailand, 12 time zones away from all that, the top headlines are still about just 1 new case of COVID-19, but I’ve been asked what’s become of America. Who’s left to admire and inspire hope?
Rev. Dr. Kenneth Dobson posts his weekly reflections on this blog.