Reflecting on the past week’s violence
The Black Lives Matter protestors should be held accountable for the violence of many of those who participated. Although supporting Black Lives is a just cause, the organizers failed to take responsibility for the widespread violence, looting, arson and shootings that took place in the midsts of their protests. Their protests didn’t discourage violence (June 3, 2020)
By Ray Hanania
I’ve lived through a few riots, as I am sure others my age have also.
I was at Grant Park when a Sly and the Family Stone concert was ordered cancelled by police before the band could land in their helicopter. The thousands of attendees who waited hours at the park went on an angry rampage.
Two years earlier, protestors tore up Michigan Avenue during the Democratic National Convention and confronted the Chicago Police in what the national news media referred to as “a police riot.” I remember watching TV news seeing one protestor throw a garbage drum shattering the window of the Conrad Hilton.
I watched as cars filled with teenagers driving in from other neighborhoods drove through our South East Side community after Martin Luther King was killed and stopped to provoke fights with other local kids. It was all about race.
Months before enlisting in the military in 1972, during my sophomore year at Northern Illinois University, I watched protestors parade down Clark Street heading South screaming and yelling spilling into a confrontation with police.
But I don’t think I have ever seen something as out of hand as this riot that began when an African American accused of passing a counterfeit 20 dollar bill at a Minneapolis store was arrested. And when he resisted, he was thrown to the street, handcuffed as a police officer held his knee against the suspect’s neck until he died.
There is no doubt that the police officer who ignored the man’s repeated pleas that he could not breath, before he died, deserves to be prosecuted.
Since then, arson, looting and widespread violence by “protestors” has spread from Minneapolis to New York, Los Angeles, Houston, Atlanta, Chicago and other cities, too.
The protests are being staged under the banner of “Black Lives Matter.” But I’ve heard many argue that the unprecedented violence is the result of the actions of the Police Officers, as if the killing of George Floyd justifies the outrageous levels of riot crime.
Maybe the level of violence is fueled by the fact that much of America, including many of the cities where the riots are the worst, have been under lockdown for more than 12 weeks because of the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic. More than 45 million people, mostly in lower waged employment, have lost their jobs. The desperation certainly has helped elevate this violence to its unprecedented levels.
Social media has also made it worse, giving crazy irresponsible criminals the opportunity to make threats that if Chicago closes, they will take their anger to the suburbs where there have been individual acts of violence, looting and destruction.
The riots have intensified since the killing took place on Monday, spiking this past weekend. That may be because most Americans were able, for the first time, to spend hours watching the live news reports of arson fires, looting of major retail stores and shootings and attacks on the police and other civilians. And it was more shocking to see on Saturday and Sunday night than it was during the brief “breaking news” reports during the regular news of the weekdays.
Who do you blame? I don’t know. I’m not happy with the police officer who seemed so uncaring as a human being died under his knee.
But is that worse than the numerous killings that have taken place since in cities across America?
Is that really worse than the wave of arson that has consumed hundreds of retail businesses and some homes over the past week?
It is more tragic than the fear that the protestors have fanned during what has been a weeklong violent rage that has become pointless, driven only by anger and “revenge?”
Here are a few things I believe.
Not all Police are bad and accusing all police of being bad is irresponsible.
The “Black Lives Matter” movement which is behind the protests can’t hide behind Floyd’s death as a justification for the violence, as Floyd’s family lawyer has asserted on Sunday morning national news programs.
And clearly, too many mayors in America are afraid to do the right thing fearing the underlying racism that is fueling the riots. They are too quickly claiming that they “understand” why these riots are taking place.
I don’t understand though. And I don’t think the rioters should be excused. If the police officer who caused Floyd’s death faces murder charges, so should the organizers of the “Black Lives Matter” protests.
You can’t hide behind assertions of racism in an unintentional killing, to justify a clearly orchestrated “public riot.”
They need to be held accountable when this is over.
Originally published in the Southwest News Newspaper chain June 3, 2020. Also, the original article mistakenly identified Santana as the band that performed at Grant Park when it was Sly and the Family Stone. I regret that error.