I can’t stop asking myself that question. Why George Floyd? Why now? There’s nothing original or different here. Cops kill an unarmed black man in the street. Cell phone video emerges. The video stokes days of protests followed by nights of outrage. Niuse gets made by politicians, protests get broken up by the police, and eventually everything returns to whatever is normal about this insane situation. Why is this time so different? Because it sure as hell feels different.
It can’t be the murder itself. Sweet Jesus, we have an almost endless litany of names, faces, and outrages. Diallo, Brown, Scott, McDonald, Garner, Gray, on and on, it sounds like your average small town phone book. I get the terrible feeling that if we collected the names of all of the unarmed black men and women killed by police in just the last ten years, we’d have a pretty damn good start on a sequel to the Vietnam Memorial Wall.
Can’t be just the video either. Hell, we have an encyclopedic collection of taped police atrocities against unarmed black men. We have video of cops shooting unarmed men in the back as they run away. We have them shooting unarmed black men through the open window of a car, while his fiance films, and his young daughter looks on. We have video of a cop who never even bothered to identify himself as one shooting through the open window of a house and killing a woman. We have video of Mike Brown being gang tackled to the street and choked out. And we have video of an already critically injured Freddie Gray being thrown into the back of a police van like an old carpet. It never fucking seems to end.
So, why now? And why George Floyd? Upon calm reflection, I find that there are actually several differences this time, and they come together in a kind of a perfect storm. They’re all small differences, but it only takes a single snowflake to start an avalanche.
For one thing, this time the video really is different, and I think that it’s a contributing factor. In most cop obscenities, it’s incredibly quick. There’s an unsteady camera image, a sudden motion, followed by BANG! BANG! BANG! and a black body hits the floor or street. It’s shockingly quick, but over just as quick. With Eric Garner, there was a brief scuffle that led to a pile on that obscured a lot of the action. And while Freddie Gray’s death was slow and painful, the aggressive arrest tactics that led to his injuries was lightening quick.
But not this time. This video was almost excruciating to watch, going more than nine minutes. And it wasn’t just one video either, there were multiple angles, all well centered and holding still, recording for history three primates with guns literally smothering the life out of an unarmed, already compliant and cuffed black man on the pavement, while a fourth goon stood doing crowd control to ensure that nobody interfered with the murder. This while bystanders yelled repeatedly to the cops that they were literally killing a man in the middle of the street. personally, I hope that Keith Ellison bumps the charges up to murder one, because the two words that keep going through my mind are depraved indifference.
The second that is starkly different this time is the official response. In most cases, killer cops are placed on administrative leave while the investigation drags on, riding a desk at full pay and benefits for months, sometimes even years. This time around, it took the mayor and police chief of Minneapolis less than 24 hours to shitcan the officers involved. And in doing so, they just set what may well become the national standard for such cases. New York Mayor Bill DeBlasio is already taking retroactive shit about thy it took him five fucking years to fire the choke artist that killed Eric garner, when Minneapolis was able to do it in 24 hours. Of course the cops have rights and unions, and of course they’ll file challenges and suits, but let them do it from the street, with the resultant loss of pay, benefits, and pensions while they fight it out. If this becomes the new normal, then the very fact that even the all powerful police union can’t protect renegade cops pay and bennies during any administrative action, that alone may have a deterrent effect.
The third thing that seems different to me this time is the protesters themselves, and their goals and aims. In most cases, public activist outrage stems from the act itself and a demand for justice for the victim. Once they get the feeling that those concerns are being addressed, the protests die a quiet and peaceful death, until the actual trials begin. But this time, the murder was so abhorrent, and the city’s response so immediate and positive towards the protesters, they can literally feel the momentum they’ve generated, and are pushing it forward for decades long overdue conversation about systemic racism and policing of minorities in general. And it appears to be working.
The importance of this moment cannot be overstated. Forget about Minneapolis for a moment. Right now, the Los Angeles city council is hammering out the details of stripping millions of dollars from the police budget, and redirecting it instead to immediate concern needs of the minority communities. The New York city council is discussing a similar change, over the protests of Mayor DeBlasio. But considering DeBlasio’s record on this issue, I think he’ll get cold comfort. Atlanta is redefining and refining its requirements for the use of police body cams, mandating that they be on at all times. The quick and decisive progressive actions by the city of Minneapolis is literally forcing other cities to begin looking proactively at was to reform their policing, if for no other reason than to avoid mass protests in their own cities.
President Barack Obama nailed it on the head yesterday, when he said that while the federal government had a role to play in standardizing certain aspects of policing, activism by its nature would have to reside in the local communities, with the mayors, city councils, and county commissioners. After all, these are the people who set the budget for the police departments, and deal with the police unions on their contracts. They’re also the most vulnerable targets. Because local activists are most at home right there, know these people the best, and can research them most effectively, and plot plans of action that will most likely attain their goals. And if enough local cities, counties and states start reforming their practices and processes at the local level, than a national revision becomes almost a fait accompli.
We’ll probably never concretely know exactly what it was about the tragic death of George Floyd that set in motion this stunning series of events. These are just some of the things that struck me as being basically different a3bout this case compared to the others. But whatever the reason, it has sparked a sea change that is already being felt, and seen in action. Will it be perfect? Of course not, nothing ever is. But it could at least start a conversion of racist and hypocritical practices that generations of African Americans have not only complained about, they’ve died over. If nothing else, hopefully it’s a start.
To know the future, look to the past.before the insanity of the 2020 election, relive the insanity of the 2016 GOP primary campaign, and the general election, to see how we got to where we are. Copies of President Evil, and the sequel, President Evil II, A Clodwork Orange are available as e-books on Amazon, at the links above. Catch up before the upcoming release of the third book in the trilogy, President Evil III: All The Presidents Fen
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