My View: Spiraling Out of Control – Killings and Riots

The situation in Minneapolis is spiraling out of control, as Governor Tim Walz admitted they were caught off guard by the ferocity of the protests and, early this morning, they admitted that they had underestimated the destruction that the protesters were capable of inflicting.

The governor during a press conference said, “Quite candidly, right now, we do not have the numbers.  We cannot arrest people when we’re trying to hold ground because of the sheer size, the dynamics and the wanton violence that’s coming out there.”

So they are admitting that a series of errors and misjudgments have led to “absolute chaos.”

A bigger question is why.  The match that set this off was the death of George Floyd.  It is important to understand that historically in this country, police beatings and killings have been the incendiary device to set off riots.  But there is always a context.

Starting with the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson and Eric Garner in Staten Island in 2014, an incident with which many have compared the Floyd death, there were a series of high profile police killings—many of them caught on video.  But there had seemed to be a lull of incidents that caught national attention, after a long series led to reform in the Obama administration and across the country.

What marked a lot of those early cases was the lack of official action—lack of prosecution, lack of conviction.

In Minnesota, this incident was different.  As soon as the incident occurred, video emerged, the officers were fired.  Police chiefs from around the country swiftly condemned the killing.  Polling showed that 78 percent of the public believes the officer in the Floyd case should be charged.

That finally occurred on Friday—which, given the speed of these events, is relatively swift.  You can argue that third-degree murder is too low.  Indeed, prosecutors argue that Derek Cauvin, the police officer who kept his knee to the back of Floyd’s neck, did so for nearly three minutes after Floyd became unresponsive.

I would argue that second degree murder—behaving with reckless indifference to human life leading to death—makes more sense.  And you can also argue that the other officers should be charged as well, especially with some video emerging showing as many as three officers on his neck at the critical moment.

Nevertheless, it is really hard to argue official indifference.  The governor and mayor have called for calm, while at the same time expressing sympathy for the emotions that lie behind the anger fueling the riots.

What is driving this anger is hard to pin down.  Is it pent up anger in Minneapolis among the black community over the lack of justice receive by Philando Castile, a 32-year-old African America who on July 6, 2016, was pulled over in Minnesota, shot and killed by the officer even as he fully cooperated?  The officer was criminally charged, but acquitted.

Or is it anger over what is now a series of high profile incidents nationally?  There was the shooting of Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia in February that recently led to national headlines when authorities finally and belatedly arrested and charged three men involved.

Then there was the strange incident also this Monday in Central Park, when a video emerged showing Amy Cooper calling the police on Christian Cooper after he asked her to leash her dog.

After the request, the woman warns him, and in fact, threatens him, that she’s going to call the police to falsely report that “there’s an African American man threatening my life,” which she then does: “Please send the cops immediately,” she pleads into the phone.

Eliza Orlins, a public defender running for Manhattan DA writes in an op-ed in the Washington Post this week:

“A white person calls the police on a black man. The police arrive and take the side of his white accuser, refusing to believe his version of events. He is arrested and arraigned. An outrageous bail amount is set. His family can’t afford to buy his freedom. He gets sent to Rikers Island, where he sits for days, months or sometimes years.

“Eventually, his case is resolved in some way — either because the charges are dismissed or because he decides to plead guilty to a lesser charge. In the meantime, he may have lost his job, his home, his children or some combination of the three.”

The difference in this case is the video shows that she is fabricating the story, even as the audio would suggest her fear and feeling of a threat.

As Orlins notes, “Under normal circumstances, these stories from our criminal punishment bureaucracy can be devastating.

“A spurious accusation in a park could mean a death sentence,” she writes, noting the danger from COVID but forgetting the case of Kalief Browder who was arrested for stealing a backpack, taken to Rikers, traumatized, and who eventually committed suicide.

But she does recognize the nexus between Cooper and George Floyd, saying that “all of this assumes the police don’t show up and deliver the death sentence on the spot. By now anyone who chooses to needlessly report a person of color to police has heard the litany of names such as George Floyd, the African American man who died just Monday after a Minneapolis police officer was filmed pinning Floyd’s neck to the ground with his knee.”

But of course these three incidents are only proximate incidents in a long series of what has taken place in this nation—stark polarization of politics, and then rising anger that we are starting to see in the wake of a collapsing national economy and the unprecedented nature of the COVID-19 pandemic and economic and social shutdowns.

Are we simply seeing the flipside of the anger that emerged, mainly on the right, with protests against the shutdown?  Is this a broader protest against nearly four years of a Trump administration marked by the rise of such polarization and rising anger in various segments?

It is hard to know.

While it seems important to separate the response from the incident that underlies it, the subtext here is rapidly becoming the text.

With yesterday’s arrest of a black journalist on live TV, the incidents have taken on a surreal quality.  Things are becoming reminiscent of 1968’s events.  Riots had been occurring each summer from 1965-1967 in places like Watts, Newark, Detroit and Chicago.  They exploded in April 1968 after the killing of MLK.  They recurred that summer in Chicago at the Democratic National Convention.

Those who suggested that riots are a long way from the peaceful protest of Martin Luther King, forget that the period between the March on Washington and the assassination saw an increase in violence in the streets.

MLK himself called the riots “the language of the unheard.”

The reaction to the those riots by white America was usually not sympathetic—even on the left.  “Shoot to kill arsonists and shoot to maim looters” was the order from Chicago Mayor Richard Daley in 1968 following the assassination of MLK, and it was his police that overreacted to protesters that summer at the convention, leading many observers to characterize it as a police riot.

Where does this head?  Too soon to tell.  But in a year where nothing has gone as planned, this is the latest unexpected occurrence.

—David M. Greenwald reporting

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About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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46 Comments

  1. John Hobbs

    ” this is the latest unexpected occurrence.”

    Unexpected by you, but I’ve been warning about the result of endlessly excusing killer cops, racist politicians and oblivious citizens for some years here. I expected this to blow up many months ago.

  2. Keith Olsen

    Are we simply seeing the flipside of the anger that emerged, mainly on the right, with protests against the shutdown?

    You mean the peaceful protests on the right where buildings didn’t get burned and businesses didn’t get looted?

    These protests are no longer about Floyd.  They’re using Floyd as an excuse to go out create mayham and loot.  The mayor of Atlanta got it right.

    Listen to her speak, it’s inspiring:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BVs8JXqLPs8

    1. David Greenwald

      I understand the comments by the Atlanta Mayor, she’s trying to keep calm in her city. I find them a bit contrived and her understanding of history limited. She argued they weren’t in the spirit of MLK, but as I note in this piece, MLK himself said rioting was the voice of the unheard.

      She’s rejecting that notion, as are you. Understand why you want to do that. The problem is that both falls short of explaining why it is happening. An excuse to create mayhem is an unsatisfactory explanation. Why this time and not other times? Why is it far more widespread now? The excuse to commit mayhem explanation falls short of being able to adequately answer those questions.

      1. Keith Olsen

        Understand why you want to do that. 

        Yeah and I understand why you want to portray these riots as righteous.

        Why didn’t the rest of the cities riot sooner if this was all a reaction to the Floyd murder?

        They saw what the Minneapolis rioters got away with the night before and decided they could get away with it too.

        BTW, two Oakland cops got shot last night and one died.

        1. David Greenwald

          It seems like the history of riots is that it takes a catalyst. Watts Riot started over a relatively insignificant traffic stop. when I was in college, Rodney King happened, but it was interesting reading the Kerner Commission report in a class in the aftermath of Rodney King but about Watts. I worry about the future of this country if calmer heads don’t start prevailing.

        2. Alan Miller

          I worry about the future of this country if calmer heads don’t start prevailing.

          I worry about the future of this country if calmer heads don’t start ‘protesting’.

        3. Alan Miller

          It seems like the history of riots is that it takes a catalyst.

          I agree with that — but that doesn’t preclude that some who cause violence are not doing so out of righteous anger, but rather doing so because an opportunity opens up.  The degree to which each is true, and both always are, is probably not measurable and arguing the point is just political babble.  However, note that in your cited article, King says:

          I will agree that there is a group in the Negro community advocating violence now. I happen to feel that this group represents a numerical minority. Surveys have revealed this. The vast majority of Negroes still feel that the best way to deal with the dilemma that we face in this country is through non-violent resistance, and I don’t think this vocal group will be able to make a real dent in the Negro community in terms of swaying 22 million Negroes to this particular point of view.

          That is not to discount what King says next, I believe your point, which is also true:

          And I contend that the cry of “black power” is, at bottom, a reaction to the reluctance of white power to make the kind of changes necessary to make justice a reality for the Negro. I think that we’ve got to see that a riot is the language of the unheard. And, what is it that America has failed to hear? It has failed to hear that the economic plight of the Negro poor has worsened over the last few years.

          On that last sentence, the issues are different and broader today, but the same principals in both what I am pointing out and what you are pointing out, still apply.

           

    2. Alan Miller

      The mayor of Atlanta got it right.  Listen to her speak, it’s inspiring

      WOW>>  Thanks, KO for posting that.  That is one of the most powerful speeches I’ve heard in years (too bad the circumstances).  There is nothing false or political or pre-written — that is honest passion.  I do wish she’d taken it a two words further when said what I think she was thinking, ‘to all those murdered by police’, I think that would have quelled some of the anger — but I understand the political mire that would put her in.  I so appreciate her references to King and her pleas to go home and her statements that ‘this is not a protest, this is chaos – a protest has purpose’.  Beautiful.  I love this woman.  I want to learn more about her.

      1. Keith Olsen

        Yes Alan, she spoke with much passion.

        David felt her words were ‘a bit contrived’, maybe because she didn’t spout what David wanted to hear, or maybe she ‘missed the critical point’.

  3. Bill Marshall

    Problems to understanding…

    Nowhere have I seen or heard the context/pretext of how the police ‘contacted’ Mr Floyd in the first place… nada… zilch…

    Comparing the 1968 Chicago riots with what is going on in MN and elsewhere is spurious … I was 13 then, and there is no valid comparison… MLK was not killed by police… RFK had also been murdered a few weeks later, right after (literally) his CA primary victory, again not by police… I saw the latter in real time, on TV… as it happened… RFK had a real shot of being the Democtatic nominee for President… the Vietnam War was near its peak of death and destruction… the ‘draft’ was how you went into the meat grinder… rich whites could get exemptions, or get assigned stateside… those “of color” generally had to go to SE Asia, poor/middle class whites as well… inflation was rising (a recession began the following year)… there were no major pandemics in the US, disproportionally affecting anyone.  The rioters in Chicago were a cross-section as to white/black… probably more white.

    Comparing 1968 Chicago with 2020 MN or elsewhere is the height of foolishness and/or ignorance.

    1968 sowed the seeds for the Kent State ‘massacre’ just less than two years later. Learn history, David…

    1. David Greenwald

      I have to disagree – you can’t separate the 1968 riots from the fact that there were serious riots from 1965 to 1967 in many cities

    2. Alan Miller

      RFK had a real shot of being the Democtatic nominee for President…

      Poor choice of words . . . unless you were going for morbid punstering

    3. Alan Miller

      rich whites could get exemptions, or get assigned stateside… …

      So true . . . or north of the of border . .

      those “of color” generally had to go to SE Asia, poor/middle class whites as well…

      Yes, and the number of Latino surnames on the Vietnam War Memorial Wall is staggering.

      With blacks generally having ‘white’ surnames, the staggering loss of African Americans is hidden in the context of that Wall.

        1. Alan Miller

          Latino and whites are lumped together in that figure

          That’s a weird lumping.  My visit to that Wall was 40 years ago.  I remember the Latino surnames because my sister and I were both struck by the number and talked about it.

  4. John Hobbs

    Not to distract from the history lesson here, but these folks are “rioting” because another black person was killed by an agent of the racist oppressive state. Period. After decades of reasoning pleading and arguing, with hundreds of victims of police murder over the last four years, the camel’s back is broken.

    The protesters aren’t just black and hispanic, the ones I saw on CNN and NBC were a pretty close match to community demographics. Now that middle class white folks (and their kids) are involved, politicians will have to change their tune and stop propping up dirty cops and DAs.

  5. Jeff Boone

    Minneapolis has been under Democrat control for decades.  If Democrats cannot fix the police under their watch then it seems that Democrats don’t have much credibility to make political hay out of the crisis caused by dirty cops.

    Seriously, we see this media narrative repeat… the same conversation… the same problem being promulgated… that law enforcement is inherently racist… broken… too violent… and this is a call to elect politicians that will fix the problems… generally Democrats as they have adopted the mantle of social justice leaders… there to fix the problems of institutional racism that, they say, are the primary contributors to low socioeconomic outcomes in the black communities.

    It seems that there is a conflict of interest here.  The Democrat campaign platform to be both the fixer and also the beneficiary of the media narrative for what is broken.

    Expect that same Democrat cohort to blame the Republican Trump.  It cannot be their fault with all that virtuous caring rhetoric.

    1. Keith Olsen

      Mayor Jacob Frey is toast.

      Frey told reporters “the symbolism of a building cannot outweigh the importance of life, of our officers, or the public. We could not risk serious injury to anyone and we will continue to patrol the 3rd precinct entirely, we will continue to do our jobs in that area, and you know, brick and mortar is not as important as life.”
      A reporter pressed the mayor, asking him “what’s the plan here? What are we doing? Here in the streets, a lot of businesses have been burned down, a lot of livelihoods have been hurt, we’ve seen very little police out there just in general, at the 3rd and throughout and I’m just wondering what’s the plan and who’s in charge in this city.”

      https://ktrh.iheart.com/featured/michael-berry/content/2020-05-29-minneapolis-mayor-defends-stand-down-order-as-rioters-burn-police-precinct/

  6. Alan Miller

     

    Those who suggested that riots are a long way from the peaceful protest of Martin Luther King, forget that the period between the March on Washington and the assassination saw an increase in violence in the streets.

    I was speaking of the methods of King, not what any and every gathering of black people did in that era.

    MLK himself called the riots “the language of the unheard.”

    The reaction to the those riots by white America was usually not sympathetic—even on the left.

    There is a difference between understanding the anger & the reason behind it, and condoning it.  To the degree the violent actions are reactions to the events — rather than hoodlums taking advantage of a situation to break & burn — I do understand the reason for the anger and even some empathy for the desire behind the violence.

  7. John Hobbs

    If the Vanguard archives were easier to access I could bring up dozens, if not hundreds of posts from Olsen, Boone and others always questioning and re-framing the narrative of people of color relating their experiences with the police so that they conform to the white male understanding of culture.

    Here is the result of the intentional deafness. I began to believe that such events were inevitable if blacks and other minorities were continually ignored. After the brutal murder of Stephon Clark, just a few blocks from where I lived at the time, i knew that the only way to bring the issue into the forefront would be more deaths and more violence until the country exploded. You asked for it, you got it.

  8. Keith Olsen

    They’re starting to find that Antifa and other far left wing fringe groups are involved in these riots.  Many of those arrested are from out of state.

    1. Don Shor

      They’re starting to find that Antifa and other far left wing fringe groups are involved in these riots. Many of those arrested are from out of state.

      Evidence?

      1. Alan Miller

        ’twas wondering too.  I’m sure there’s some crossover, but enough to state Antifa is the aggressor?  I’m not sure that can be known.  And I’m no fan of the “‘Fa”.

      2. John Hobbs

        They need and have none, Don. Yeah, so many people pissed off about 4 cops spending almost 9 minutes choking the life out of a restrained guy pleading for relief, crying out to his dead mother for intercession, I mean hell, it’s just one more death at the hands of police. It’s happened hundreds of times in the last few years so why did this straw break the camel’s back? OH yeah, it’s all the fake news medias’ fault, right?

    1. Don Shor

      They’re starting to find that Antifa and other far left wing fringe groups are involved in these riots. Many of those arrested are from out of state.

      Evidence?

      1. Bill Marshall

        CNN reports that many ‘rioters/looters’ in MN are out-of-state folk… not evidence, per se, but an indication that there are outsiders playing a major role, of whatever stripe…

        1. Don Shor

          Current reports I could find indicate no evidence for the assertions that they are out-of-town leftists as stated by some, nor white supremacists as stated by others. I suggest it is inadvisable to post rumors (Keith, not you) that aren’t verified. I understand the president and attorney general have made some of these assertions, but their assertions are presented without evidence.

        2. Jeff Boone

          Chad Wolf, acting secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, said his agency is investigating the involvement of extremist and violent groups that are “taking advantage of a peaceful protest.”

          So they are investigating this.  Seems reasonable to post the suspicion. After all we had to endure three years of posting of Trump-Russia collusion without any evidence.

          1. David Greenwald

            The way investigations work is that you look into all angles. However, what the AP is reporting is that there is no actual evidence at this time to substantiate their involvement, that it’s a chaotic situation and now is not a good time to even try to deduce what has happened and basically everyone is pointing fingers all over the place.

        3. Keith Olsen

          Statement from AG Barr this morning:

          With the rioting that is occurring in many of our cities around the country, the voices of peaceful and legitimate protests have been hijacked by violent radical elements. Groups of outside radicals and agitators are exploiting the situation to pursue their own separate, violent, and extremist agenda.
          It is time to stop watching the violence and to confront and stop it. The continued violence and destruction of property endangers the lives and livelihoods of others, and interferes with the rights of peaceful protestors, as well as all other citizens.
          It also undercuts the urgent work that needs to be done – through constructive engagement between affected communities and law enforcement leaders – to address legitimate grievances. Preventing reconciliation and driving us apart is the goal of these radical groups, and we cannot let them succeed.
          It is the responsibility of state and local leaders to ensure that adequate law enforcement resources, including the National Guard where necessary, are deployed on the streets to reestablish law and order. We saw this finally happen in Minneapolis last night, and it worked.
          Federal law enforcement actions will be directed at apprehending and charging the violent radical agitators who have hijacked peaceful protest and are engaged in violations of federal law.
          To identify criminal organizers and instigators, and to coordinate federal resources with our state and local partners, federal law enforcement is using our existing network of 56 regional FBI Joint Terrorism Task Forces (JTTF).
          The violence instigated and carried out by Antifa and other similar groups in connection with the rioting is domestic terrorism and will be treated accordingly.”

          1. Don Shor

            The violence instigated and carried out by Antifa and other similar groups in connection with the rioting is domestic terrorism and will be treated accordingly.

            Neither Barr nor Trump has provided any evidence for these assertions, and neither is credible on the topic.

        4. Keith Olsen

          I tend to believe what the AG has to say and I’m sure he has more knowledge about it than you.  We will see, I’m sure it will come out.

           

    2. Bill Marshall

      No, they didn’t do it for George Floyd… an excuse… not a true reason.  Doubt Mr Floyd would have approved… had he been allowed to live…

      There has been an egregious murder… 3 ‘co-conspirators’ remain uncharged… any one of them could have stopped it.  Reality.  Please don’t spin the a%%h&*s actions to minimize the fact that there was a murder, under the color of law.  Doesn’t wash.

      No way Mr Floyd is responsible for any of the aftermath… he’s dead.  Stone cold dead.

      You are acting/posting as an apparent ghoul.  Maybe I can get a plane ticket for you to dance on Mr Floyd’s grave?  He received the death penalty for an unclear crime, without arraignment nor trial… if you want justice, perhaps the crowd should have all 4 officers ‘drawn and quartered’… we have no provision for that in our laws, but that might be ‘restorative justice’… Or, we could have them hanged… or lynched… the former is a matter of severing the spinal column… the latter usually means strangulation’…

      Or, do you see any/all 4 officers as guiltless, innocent of any crime?  Particularly under the ‘color of authority’?

      I await your response.  But not holding my breath… bad pun intended…

      1. Keith Olsen

        Gawd are you projecting here or what?  I’ve already stated that what happened to Floyd is detestable and his killer deserves a life sentence and the other three cops deserve to serve time too.  Look at my back posts, it’s there.  Do your homework before you throw stones.

        But I also detest rioters who are using Floyd’s death to loot and steal.  Talk about dancing on his grave?  Is that so hard for you to fathom?

         

        1. Keith Olsen

          Funny B.M. that you wrote this earlier today:

          Bill MarshallMay 30, 2020 at 8:00 am
          So, you may support looting and destruction as a protected, effective form of ‘free speech’… helping to “change” things… I don’t… almost all looters and those wantonly destroying property are NOT motivated by a cause… they are opportunists who are motivated by greed, and/or a ‘need’ to ‘act out’, and use the incident as ‘an excuse’.  Ironically, they tend to discredit the righteous cause, and bring out a reactionary response… they move the football backwards… IMNSHO…

          So B.M., I guess one could say by your own standards that “You are acting/posting as an apparent ghoul.”

           

  9. Keith Olsen

    Just give me reason why my latest comment is awaiting moderation.

    It may be a valid reason but I’d like to know.

    [Moderator: check your email]

  10. Jeff Boone

    Trump Administration is listing Antifa as a terrorist organization.

    Expect prominent Democrats to denounce it.

    That will help ya’ll understand that Antifa is a protected and supported group for the Democrats.

    1. David Greenwald

      “President Donald Trump tweeted Sunday that the United States will designate Antifa as a terrorist organization, even though the US government has no existing legal authority to label a wholly domestic group in the manner it currently designates foreign terrorist organizations.”

      No, they’ll just let the courts deal with it.

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