There was one group behind the violence on Thursday night, and it sure as hell was not antifa

Geoff Livingston / Flickr George Floyd protest by the White 1591041413.jpg...
Geoff Livingston / Flickr

There were moments on Thursday evening worth celebrating. On the day that memorial services for George Floyd began, protesters in Washington D.C. withstood a pounding thunderstorm to stand vigil in the rain. Across the nation, thousands again came out for a seventh day, and a seventh night, of protests in small towns and large cities coast to coast. In Mobile, Alabama, the bronze statue of Confederate Admiral Raphael Semmes that had looked over the 70% Black city for most of a century was removed. And in city after city, protests were peaceful … on the part of protesters.

But what happened most notably on Thursday evening was that in multiple locations police used curfews as an excuse to come after nonviolent protesters with violence of an extraordinary, and in many cases sickening, degree. The images left behind were of genuine riots—police riots—and an incident that may be the very definition of “depraved indifference.”

Warning: For those triggered by violence, there are no safe images, no safe videos, no acceptable moments to be found below. The violence displayed in each of these moments is at a level that would earn an R-rating for any film, and of a nature that would never be broadcast on the many television programs featuring “hero cops.”

In some locations, the police didn’t even wait for curfew to provide an excuse before launching into civilians with a level of violence and brutality that absolutely underlines the need for massive, systematic change in law enforcement.

In Los Angeles, police launched into protesters without apparent cause, but with an obvious and unsupported level of violence that let to broken limbs and worse.

But it wasn’t all violence. There were moments of cooperation … like this moment when a Portland officer takes aside a group of gun-toting white supremacists to warn them before they start gassing everyone else.

And in what may be the most viscerally ugly moment of the evening, there was … this. The moment when an elderly man, part of a small group of protesters in Buffalo, New York, tried to talk with police who had decided to sweep everyone from a public square.

Unbelievably, the police involved originally reported that they had cleared the square without incident, though one man “tripped and fell.” Two of the officers in this video have now been suspended. Every one of them should be fired. The level of casual violence and indifference to suffering caught in this moment doesn’t border on the sociopathic, it defines it. And this video, on top of the official report that someone had “tripped” made clear once again how easily the worst actions can be covered up when a camera is not around.

While police made it absolutely clear why immediate and sweeping reform is absolutely necessary across the nation, there were still moments on Thursday night that will linger for reasons other than fear and disgust.

George Floyd’s death is a catalyst, and his individual tragedy, his individual humanity, is still at the center of this moment. But this has gone far, far, far beyond what happens now with those officers directly involved in Floyd’s death. Nothing less than a fundamental change in the whole of American policing will suffice. On Thursday night, the police made that obvious.

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