By David M. Greenwald
It was a moment that had seemed to pass. In the wake of the death of George Floyd, the nation seemed ready to address racial inequity. But as time wore on, life slowly returned to normal, the moment seemed to pass, polling showed white opinion—other than those on the left—reverting back to pre-Floyd levels.
The Jacob Blake shooting seems to have re-ignited the movement. People were in the streets. Tragedy struck on Tuesday night when a 17-year-old shot and killed two and wounded another protester.
But the moment was perhaps etched in stone when the Milwaukee Bucks, a team with aspirations for a championship and led by one of the brightest young stars in the NBA, never came out of their locker room.
They remained inside for three hours, talking to Wisconsin politicians and leaders about what needed to be done, and then they crafted a statement demanding action.
“The past four months have shed a light on the ongoing racial injustices facing our African American communities,” Point Guard George Hill said. “Citizens around the country have used their voices and platforms to speak out against these wrongdoings. Over the last few days in our home state of Wisconsin, we’ve seen the horrendous video of Jacob Blake being shot in the back seven times by a police officer in Kenosha, and the additional shooting of protestors. Despite the overwhelming plea for change, there has been no action, so our focus today cannot be on basketball.”
The Bucks called on the Wisconsin State Legislature to “reconvene after months of inaction and take up meaningful measures to address issues of police accountability, brutality and criminal justice reform.”
The Bucks were not alone—the entire slate of NBA playoff games were cancelled on Wednesday.
The LA Times reports that the Lakers had originally planned to speak out against racism and police brutality while winning an NBA championship, with their coach believing that the further they got in the playoffs, the better and bigger their platform would be.
But things changed and playoff games were cancelled out of protest for the first time in league history—punctuating the moment that maybe some would allow to slip by with a shrug or even a derisive comment.
While the Lakers are one of the dynasties in basketball, the Clippers, their cross-town rivals, have never won a championship and have a team that could do exactly that.
On Tuesday, Clipper Coach Doc Rivers made emotional comments on the shooting of Blake.
“All you hear is Donald Trump and all of them talking about fear,” Rivers said. “We’re the ones getting killed, we’re the ones getting shot, we’re the ones who are denied to live in certain communities.
“That video, if you watch that video, you don’t need to be Black to be outraged,” Rivers said. “You need to be American and outraged. How dare the Republicans talk about fear. We’re the ones that need to be scared. We’re the ones having to talk to every Black child. What white father has to give his son a talk about being careful if you get pulled over?
“We’ve been hung, we’ve been shot. And all you do is keep hearing about fear. It’s amazing to me why we keep loving this country and this country does not love us back.”
Both the Lakers and Clippers have decided that they do not want to play any more games. A season that both teams hoped would be a championship season after reloading with new players has already been interrupted by the pandemic, and now it is threatened by social unrest.
The LA Times reports, “NBA owners are scheduled to meet Thursday morning here. It’s possible that if the other teams decide to play, the Lakers and Clippers will continue their seasons.”
The backdrop to all of this is, of course, the Republican National Convention—and at a time when Trump and the Republicans are attempting to convince moderate whites that they are not racist, the RNC speakers on Wednesday barely acknowledged what was going on.
Vice President Pence did play up the civil unrest, noting, “Americans won’t be safe if Biden wins.” He attempted to play up the fear that a President Biden would abolish the police and lead to civil unrest.
But they have a bit of a problem now. On Monday, they invited the McCloskeys, the St. Louis area attorneys who pulled out their weapons on protesters.
During their remarks on Monday, Patty McCloskey, a St. Louis attorney who, along with her husband Mark, has been charged with felony brandishing of weapons against protesters, said, “They are not satisfied with spreading the chaos and violence into our communities, they want to abolish the suburbs altogether by ending single-family home zoning.”
McCloskey continues: “This forced rezoning would bring crime, lawlessness and low-quality apartments into thriving suburban neighborhoods.” She added, “These are the policies that are coming to a neighborhood near you. So make no mistake: No matter where you live, your family will not be safe in the radical Democrats’ America.”
The McCloskeys appeared at the RNC simply because they brandished their weapons in response to protesters who were headed for the mayor’s house, demanding justice for Black victims of police violence.
We got a reminder on Tuesday of how dangerous this message is. A 17-year-old, said to be a white vigilante, shot and killed two protesters and injured a third in front of police and the cameras. The arrest was announced on Wednesday with the police chief throwing more fuel on the fire.
Chief Daniel Miskinis blamed the unidentified victims in Tuesday night’s shooting for their own deaths, saying the violence was the result of the “persons” involved violating curfew:
“Persons who were out after the curfew became engaged in some type of disturbance, and persons were shot,” Miskins said. “Everybody involved was out after the curfew. I’m not going to make a great deal of that, but the point is the curfew is in place to protect. Had persons not been out involved in violation of that, perhaps the situation that unfolded would not have happened.”
Meanwhile, as one commentator in the LA Times pointed out, the 17-year-old “appeared emboldened” and “even validated in his actions.”
The commentator writes, “And why wouldn’t he be? The McCloskeys were lionized. He just took the gun-wielding further.”
So here we are, 2020, just over two months from the November election, facing the most extraordinary times that anyone can imagine.
—David M. Greenwald reporting
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