Scenes of protest are erupting in cities across America after the death of George Floyd at the hands of a police officer. What began as peaceful protests have turned into riots, with people setting fires, damaging property, and looting stores.
Floyd tragically died after being arrested in Minneapolis, Minnesota, as a police officer, Derek Chauvin, knelt on his neck for almost ten minutes. The incident began when a store clerk reportedly called the police, saying Floyd had attempted to use a fake $20 bill. Law enforcement soon turned up, but the use of excessive force during the arrest has sparked outrage across the country – especially since Floyd was handcuffed and did not become violent. He also told the officers he could not breathe, but they did not heed his pleading.
One reason the incident became such a hot topic was that many have called the killing racist because Floyd was a black man and the police officer is white. According to some, this is just the latest in a long series of racially motivated police brutality against black Americans, stretching back many years. Others suggest it is not a racial matter at all, but an issue of widespread police misconduct.
Chauvin was himself arrested and charged with third-degree murder, and three other officers on the scene were fired.
Protests, Riots, and Antifa
Protests soon shook Minneapolis as people learned of the terrible incident. Unfortunately, the protests turned violent, devolving into riots. Minnesota Governor Tim Walz brought in the National Guard to gain control of the situation on May 28. Five hundred members of Minnesota’s 11,000-strong National Guard had been called in to help control the dire and developing situation. On May 30, that number was increased to around 10,000. Hundreds of people have been arrested for violence, as well as stealing and destroying property.
The riots quickly spread to over one hundred cities across the country, including Washington D.C., where protestors turned up at the White House and clashed with Secret Service officers. President Trump reportedly sheltered in a bunker.
Reports suggest that otherwise peaceful protests are being hijacked by groups intent on violence and destruction. “The peaceful [protesters]… tend to remain peaceful but what’s embedded within them are people that are right now, they’re just acting like terrorists, trying to instill fear, damage property and loot,” said Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva.
Some have named Antifa as the group responsible for keeping the violence going. Made up of anarchists, anti-capitalists, and Marxists, Antifa belongs to the extreme left-wing. It’s a group of activists who disguise their identities in black clothes and face coverings and protest anyone they think is fascist, racist, or right-wing. Their tactics are often violent.
Attorney General Bill Barr stated in a press conference that, “In many places, it appears the violence is planned, organized, and driven by far-left extremist groups and anarchic groups using Antifa-like tactics.” President Trump announced that he plans to designate Antifa as a “terrorist organization.”
A History of Upset
Though Antifa hasn’t been around that long, this isn’t the first time the U.S. has experienced riots after police action against black Americans, and these riots are said to be the worst since the 1960s. In 1965, the Watts neighborhood of Los Angeles was the setting for race riots after it was said police hurt a pregnant woman. 1967 saw a “long, hot summer” of violence, and in 1968, the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. prompted nationwide protests and riots. The relationship between police and black Americans looks to be as tense as ever, and many citizens – of all races – feel the police have become too eager to use force against the people.
Remembering George Floyd
Floyd’s uncle, Selwyn Jones, said his nephew “always had a smile on his face. He was always smiling and laughing.” Floyd’s brother, Philonese, asked people to stop the violence, saying, “Everybody has a lot of pain right now, that’s why this is happening, I’m tired of seeing black people dying.”
Floyd’s girlfriend, Courtney Ross, added, “You can’t fight fire with fire. Everything just burns, and I’ve seen it all day – people hate, they’re hating, they’re hating, they’re mad. And he would not want that.”