Protest? Yes; Riot? No

By CATHERINE KIRK CKIRK@DDTONLINE.COM,

Eight minutes and 46 seconds was the amount of time it took for people to stop talking about COVID-19.

The terrible death of George Floyd on Memorial Day has sparked a passion and furious outcry from people seeking justice.

I haven’t had the stomach to watch the video of former Minneapolis officer Derek Chauvin press his knee into Floyd’s neck, but I’ve seen several pictures. Even they are difficult to take in.

Eight minutes and 46 seconds. In those agonizing minutes, Floyd called out for help. He said he couldn’t breathe. He even called out for his mother. The cop refused to resist.

Floyd, who was accused of buying cigarettes with a counterfeit $20 bill, should not have taken his last breaths under a cop’s knee. It was a despicable act by Chauvin and the three other officers involved.

People should be mad. What happened to Floyd was not justice, not even close.

My brother, who happens to be a police officer, shared his disgust of the events that took place May 25. Officers are not trained to pin someone down by their neck because they know it can lead to devastating results.

My brother has arrested several people in his time as a cop, but he has never resorted to the senseless tactics these officers used. Police are trained on ways to safely handle suspects in dangerous situations, let alone something as simple as the suspicion of someone using counterfeit money.

Floyd’s arrest should have taken a matter of seconds, but that didn’t happen. In those eight minutes and 46 seconds, he died. 

I understand why people are protesting. Police brutality is nothing new and it never stops being horrific. People, especially in the African-American community, are exhausted.

It is infuriating when you hear stories like the death of Ahmaud Arbery, the unarmed black man in Georgia who was attacked by two white men, Gregory and Travis McMichael, for being a suspected burglar.

Arbery was shot and killed Feb. 23 and the McMichaels were not arrested until nearly two months later on May 7, shortly after the video of his murder went viral.

It seems fairly obvious why no charges had been filed by the local district attorney’s office on the two men. Gregory is a former investigator with the Brunswick district attorney’s office. The police and prosecutors originally in charge of the case said that there was “insufficient probable cause” for arresting the killers and that Travis was “allowed to use deadly force to protect himself.”

Is hunting down and killing a man for suspicion of theft considered justice? To people watching the news, it certainly seems so if you’re friends with the law.

It is gut-wrenching to see the shared images of white men arrested after committing mass shootings being handled with a gentle escort to a police cruiser while harmless men like Floyd are pinned to the ground like wild animals and wind up dead.

Yes, there are plenty of good cops in the world, my brother being one of them.

Yes, the McMichaels were ultimately arrested. Yes, the four officers involved in Floyd’s death were fired and Chauvin was arrested and charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. But if it weren’t for these videos going viral, would the same end result have occurred? Hard to say.

So, yes, people are outraged. They have had enough.

During Chauvin’s 18 years with the Minneapolis Police Department, he had 18 complaints and two letters of reprimand filed against him. 

Was his department going to continue allowing him to be an officer to receive more complaints and reprimands?

Now is the time for the good cops to no longer sit back and watch when they see a fellow officer abusing their power. It is incumbent on the good officers to root out the bad ones.

For those protesting, please continue practicing your right to do so. Don’t get caught up in the hysteria if someone starts to violently riot and loot businesses at random. Don’t burn down buildings in your community as they have done in other cities.

Sunday night, I was watching a live video being taken by a reporter with The Daily Caller in Washington D.C. What started as a peaceful protest turned into randomly shattering windows and breaking into shops to steal the items from inside. As one coffee shop was being broken into, there was a male protestor shouting, “That’s not what we’re here for! That’s not what we’re here for!”

He was right. Destruction was not what the protesters went there for, but it didn’t take long for people to forget their cause and go into a barbaric rage once they saw a few agitators sparking the violence.

People have a right to be angry. People have a right to protest. People do not, however, have the right to cause more harm because of someone else’s crime. We can and must be better than that.

Sadly, there is nothing that will bring Floyd back to his family, but I can’t imagine he would want to see more innocent people being hurt and killed in his name. His own family has publicly spoken out and asked that the violent protests come to an end.

There have been peaceful protests throughout the nation as well and they are to be commended. I have seen several images of officers hugging and walking alongside the peaceful protesters. There are many people who want to see a better world and a better way of living together.

I have held my children a little closer these past few days. They are pure and innocent with no idea of what’s going on in the world around them. I want them to be raised in a more accepting place than the one we currently live in.

A better life is possible, but we have to stand together. If we don’t, it will lead to our falling and we will be left with nothing. Let’s build the world for our children we want for ourselves.

Catherine Kirk is managing editor of the Delta Democrat-Times. She can be reached at ckirk@ddtonline.com.