I lived for years in the area of South Minneapolis, Minnesota, that was destroyed by rioters and looters after the death of George Floyd. While there were non violent protesters in the vicinity (who have my total support), I’m talking here about the criminals and thieves who destroyed, burned, stole, and ruined my old neighborhood.
I bought my first home less than a mile from the recent insanity. I was walking distance to lakes Hiawatha and Nokomis. Both lakes had beaches, playgrounds, and walking/cycling paths. It was – perhaps still is – a family friendly, low key area amid other quiet neighborhoods just north of Minnehaha Creek, a tranquil stretch of water running through South Minneapolis, with ample walking and biking paths on Minnehaha Parkway. My wife and I did a lot of stroller pushing there.
I began raising my family near the violence. There was a corner market, nearby schools, and an innovation (at the time, anyway): light rail transit that ran you right up Hiawatha Avenue into downtown Minneapolis and back again. The population was mostly white, urban, progressive folks between 20 and forty. I fit right in, and for a time so did my family. I edited a progressive men’s periodical, and did radio shows on local pubic radio about art and politics, spinning records and discussing topics like feminism, gender politics, and ending homelessness. I was part of a coalition of progressive men who rejected male stereotypes and tried to do things differently than our fathers.
I try to imagine how I would have reacted to the present violence and destruction back in my progressive days. I probably would have made at least one trip up the road to catch the excitement of burning buildings, looting, and the sheer adrenaline rush of breaking the law and getting away with it. But I would not have approved, if only because it was my neighborhood, where I shopped and brought food for my family, and knew the business owners and employees who worked there.
Today I join millions who are appalled by the damage, destruction, and bloodshed that continues, like a misery index, to plague our formerly trendy area of town, and our nation. I’m also curious how one can justify the destruction. After all, everyone agreed on one thing. The death of George Floyd looked a lot like murder, and the police involved deserve all the punishment that would fit such a terrible crime. The grinding of the wheels of justice seem excruciatingly slow.
Of course everyone gets their day in court. But the visual and auditory evidence by those filming the crime scene seems overwhelming. I simply do not understand why police took a handcuffed man out of the back of a squad car to kneel on his neck (the white cop), kneel on his back (Hispanic cop), kneel on his legs (light skinned African American cop) and a look out (Asian cop). Now we are hearing that Floyd and Chauvin (white cop) used to work security together at a local establishment and that Floyd used to argue with Chauvin over the latter’s penchant for heavy handed violence with customers. So in addition to police brutality, perhaps we also have the unprofessional holding of a grudge.
But none of this, no matter how bad and awful – and I stress again that we all agree that the death of George Floyd appears to be rank injustice of the worst kind – none of it justifies the destruction and looting that followed, whether it was destruction of a corporate store (Target), or worse, the destruction of minority businesses and other small businesses in the area.
But fear not! For no matter how bad the situation, government can make it worse. From the Minneapolis City Council comes virtue signaling of the most insane sort: the defunding of the Minneapolis Police Department. In fact the Council is unanimous on this point, which apparently is veto proof – not that Minneapolis’ tremulous liberal mayor is going to argue with anyone about anything.
About the only one making sense right now is Philonese Floyd, George’s younger brother. His entire manner, his words, what he says and what he doesn’t say, bespeak an integrity and a quiet strength completely lacking by Minneapolis’ leadership, the criminals and thieves, and the main stream media eagerly exonerating thugs who don’t give a damn about George Floyd and – instead of rising to the occasion like Philonese Floyd – sink to the depths by making a terrible situation even worse with their destruction, arson, and theft.
Unlike the main stream media and Minneapolis’ leadership, Philonese Floyd has spoken out against the violence that bids to overshadow his brother’s tragic death. He is asking for justice, and his words have been heard on the news and even at Washington’s House of Representatives. “I just want justice for my brother,” he says over and over again without a hint of anger, impatience, or media grandstanding. He is doing his part to keep us focused on what is most important here. If George was at all like Philonese, this makes his loss even harder to bear.
It all makes the answer to the question titling this piece even clearer. We all need the police: good police, which I believe are the majority of the force. George Floyd needed good police too. If his death serves any purpose towards improving the skill level of the police force, then perhaps his death will not be in vain.
My first apartment was on Capitol Hill, in Seattle, square within the CHOP. That would be 1970. What a time that was, and what a disappointment it has become.
Read the transcripts of Chavin’s body cam; note Floyd’s behavior and Chavin’s effort to calm him down, long before he applied the knee.