Americans now know to expect riots. Minnesota has been dreading more carnage for weeks as the Derek Chauvin trial approaches its climax. For people intent on violence, the facts of any case are by the by. All that matters is the race of the victim.
In the Minneapolis suburbs the rage broke out early, after Daunte Wright, a 20-year-old African American man, was shot by police officer Kimberly Potter. The video went inevitably viral — and everybody knew what was coming. The protests started instantly and haven’t stopped.
A man carried a severed pig’s head on a stake during the fourth day of ‘protests’. By the sixth day, Little Trees air fresheners hung from the police department’s chain link fence — a nod to the alleged reason Wright was pulled over.
Celebrities such as Kathy Griffin and Trevor Noah weighed in on Twitter, while self-aggrandizing journalists whipped up chaos night after night.
No one fans the flames quite like California representative Maxine Waters, however. She joined the Wright protests on Saturday night, wearing a pink cheetah mask and plastic face shield. As the mob surrounded her, Waters breathlessly told the cameras that if Derek Chauvin is not given a ‘guilty, guilty, guilty’ verdict ‘for murder’ then the chaos must continue:
‘We’ve got to stay on the street and we’ve got to get more active, we’ve got to get more confrontational. We’ve got to make sure that they know that we mean business.’
Meanwhile, another police shooting is picking up significantly less national attention. A teenager from Maryland was shot dead by a State Police trooper on Tuesday. The 16-year-old, Peyton Ham, was pointing (what was later determined to be) an airsoft gun at the trooper. From the details currently available about these cases, it would appear that both Wright and Ham did not follow police directives.
Did the trooper who shot Peyton make fatal errors in judgment just like police officer Kim Porter? Time and an investigation will tell. What’s clear is that the race of the victim plays a significant role in determining the intensity of public and media interest in officer-involved shootings.
In Portland last week, a man was shot after drawing what appeared to be a firearm on police. The Oregonian newspaper wrote in a tweet, ‘The man who was killed was a white man in his 30s, according to three sources with knowledge of the investigation. The Oregonian/OregonLive is identifying the man’s race in light of social unrest prompted by police shootings of black people.’ In other words: no need to loot or riot, they only shot a white guy.
Do the deaths of Peyton Hamm or the man in Portland not spark unrest because people think that the cops’ lethal force must be justified in those circumstances? Or just because the people killed were white?
Each officer-involved shooting is unique and should be treated as such. Forget what the press insists: understanding the nuances of each incident is vital if we are going to have an honest and productive conversation about police reform in America. Unfortunately the goal of these riots is not honest conversations.
As a result, after praise from politicians, these protests consistently devolve into destruction and chaos. Frequently we see protesters pleading with the rioters to not be violence. Too often they are completely ignored as mayhem takes over.
These riots are not for the victims but for the rioters. They don’t advance a goal: they are the goal. They use ideas like justice and change as a woke excuse to shatter storefronts. We should stop treating them as agents of social justice, no matter what people like Maxine Waters say.
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