The Future of America Is Protesting and Demanding an End to a Racially-Based Justice System – We’d Better Listen

by on June 1, 2020 · 2 comments

in San Diego

Police officers kneeling in solidarity with the protesters in honor of George Floyd. (I believe this was in Norfolk, Virginia – ed.)

It is one week ago exactly that George Floyd died in Minneapolis. Since then his death had brought the country – in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic – to the brink of a new reality. His death was heard around the country – and even around the world.

Over the weekend, at least 4400 of our fellow Americans were arrested. Sixty cities – including La Mesa and San Diego – experienced protests. The National Guard has been called out in 20 states. Curfews have been laid down on many municipalities – too many, as in Poway where a small demonstration of 50 people was enough for local leaders there to enact a curfew. More lock-downs. Curfews and the Guard are but bandaids and do not address the structural problems in this country.

Yet, what has become clear is that the young of this country – the future of America – have been marching and protesting since Floyd’s death, and the singular demand they have shouted in many different ways, from coast to coast is an immediate end to the racially-based criminal justice system in this country.

For way too long, Black and Brown Americans have been subjected to an institutionalized system of racism, of white supremacy, that has forced many of them to defer their dreams, a racism manifested in a system that does not treat them equally. Treyvon Martin, Freddie Gray …. remember all the hashtags with their names? The youth are fed up with these hashtags with a Black man’s name attached.

And now with George Floyd’s death, the tipping point. African-Americans will no longer abide by this system, until they are treated equally. They no longer consent to this system of racial disparity.

This map from the AP was edited to show San Diego / La Mesa

What’s different today is that many, many white people have joined them in their protests. So have many Latinos, Asian-Americans – and fellow citizens of every age, stature and ethnicity. They – we – are standing with their uncompromising stance of “enough”, “no more”, and we’re all saying Black Lives Matter.

The nation is at a moment. A very, crucial moment. We must go forward. Our Black fellow citizens are no longer willing to return to the good ol’ days. And many of us are joining them and also are refusing to go back. Many white people are realizing that, indeed, silence by whites in the face of this disparity is violence itself.

The racially-based system of criminal justice, from militarized metropolitan police forces to high-rates of incarceration – to death after death of Black men and women killed by police officers who are later exonerated or not even ever charged . Many of us remember the Rodney King riots in LA – they were 28 years ago. There are eerie parallels between King’s beating – caught on video and Floyd’s murder by knee – caught on cellphone. Nearly three decades ago. Has anything changed?

There is a deep, racist culture in many police departments and in DA offices. This had got to change. It’s not just about George Floyd. His death is just the latest in a string of deaths that people have been protesting, since Ferguson. Since before.

Police forces have been so militarized that when officers don their riot gear, they look – and behave – like soldiers in a war zone. They treat civilians like the enemy they’re trained to control, subdue and even kill if necessary. Their training has to change. Their uniforms have to change. If you can’t tell the difference between a cop and a soldier on the streets of America, then we know something is terribly amiss.

Police officers, for example, are taught that when they pull their weapon and shoot, they must shoot to kill. Why not shoot to wound? Or better, why shoot at all if there are other methods of deescalation. Police should act to deescalate, but as we saw in La Mesa on Saturday and in cities across the nation, it’s often the police behavior that triggers more violence and aggression.

What could the officers in La Mesa have done to deescalate the situation they found themselves in on Saturday with hundreds of protesters surrounding the La Mesa Police Department, after one of their white officers was caught on video harassing a young, Black man at a trolley stop, who was arrested for standing?

Instead of using tear gas and rubber bullets in a militarized response to unarmed, militant but peaceful youngsters, the police in La Mesa could have instead approached the demonstrators in a much more emphatic way, taken off their belts and riot gear, put down their shields and helmets and come out and talk to the young people. They could have announced their investigation of the trolley stop incident; they could have fired the cop even. They could have come out of their fortress and knelt down in solidarity. Some police in a few other jurisdictions did just that – and defused the situation.

No, instead, they charged out like bulldogs. Sure, their building had been spray-painted slogans they didn’t like. But spray paint doesn’t equate to tear gas – and the escalation that did happen. Two banks burned to the ground; numerous businesses looted. Chants that police don’t like do not equate to rubber bullets.

This was not a wild mob of Black men outside their citadel. It was a very diverse crowd. Of young people – the future of our country.

Police practices do need to change. It was announced just today that the police department in Minneapolis where George Floyd was murdered has used neck restraints hundreds of times since 2015, where the method caused 44 people to lose consciousness – a highly dangerous condition. And it was used mostly on Black men. Many departments have outlawed the neck restraint method entirely.

And the other three officers involved in Floyd’s death are still walking around free. Why is that? People are arrested everyday in every city in this country before police or the DA have sufficient evidence for success at a jury trial, with evidence beyond a reasonable doubt. But that is not the threshold of an arrest. It’s only probable cause. Those three other officers should be behind bars this instance. They’re not – and some wonder why people are so pissed off.

Then there’s the blame game. Oh, those “outside agitators” – they’re the reason everything is burning and being looted. The mayor of Minneapolis even claimed at one point, every one arrested was an outsider. He had to walk that back the next day when news sources discovered that 80% of those arrested during the first few days of unrest in that city were from Minneapolis. Blaming the outside agitator is always a favorite meme to drop back on. Oh, our people, our young, our students, would have never, ever done that. Our young aren’t that upset. It’s those outsiders who cause all the trouble, not the original police violence.

We’re at a crisis moment. It can be a moment of change. And protests have what dragged this country into change for centuries, beginning with the Boston Massacre of May 4, 1770. This country was born in protest.

We had better be listening to the cries of pain and anguish of protest by the young today. They are the future of this country – and they’re not going back. And neither are we. And this is a good thing.

Let’s rejoice that we live in a country where all kinds of people are upset that a Black man was lynched in broad daylight in 2020. For what kind of future would we have if nobody cared?







{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Frank Gormlie June 2, 2020 at 2:14 pm
Frank Gormlie June 2, 2020 at 4:55 pm

A La Mesa woman who was shot in the head with a police projectile during a protest over the weekend outside the La Mesa Police Department remains in a medically induced coma, her family said. Her family and their attorney on Tuesday called for the officer involved to be identified, removed from duty and charged with attempted murder.

“We are going to get justice,” attorney Dante Pride of The Pride Law Firm said during a Tuesday afternoon news conference outside the police department. “Justice will not wait, and we will not be silent.” Pride said Leslie Furcron, a 59-year-old grandmother, was holding her phone and recording the Saturday protest when she was shot in the forehead by what they believe was a projectile from a police bean bag gun.

“She was not violent,” said Pride, adding that he’s talked to dozens of witnesses and watched dozens of videos. “That’s an attempted murder,” Pride said. He noted that police did not call for an ambulance and that bystanders had to pick her up and take her to the hospital.


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