NEW YORK (ChurchMilitant.com) - The American public is currently having a moment of soul-searching about racism and law enforcement after more than a week of protests and riots sparked by the death of George Floyd at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer, which millions saw in a dramatic amateur video.
Religious leaders, including Pope Francis and Catholic prelates, have denounced the racism which supposedly inspired Floyd's death and that of other black people at the hands of law enforcement in the United States.
Hundreds of thousands have streamed into the streets in American cities and not a few foreign capitals to express horror over Floyd's arrest and death. Minneapolis officer Derek Chauvin was seen pressing his knee on Floyd's neck for some eight minutes on May 25 as the prone and shackled man pleaded: "I can't breathe."
Three other officers stood by. Officer Chauvin was fired from the department and charged with murder. President Trump has ordered a federal investigation into Floyd's death to parallel a Minnesota state probe.
Arsonists, looters and extremists of various stripes have marred demonstrations in cities across the United States against "systemic racism" in policing. Breaking with COVID-19 social distancing guidelines, protesters and violent extremists filled the streets of Minneapolis on May 26 in support of Black Lives Matter, a leftist group ostensibly seeking an end to racism and sexism while seeking to "disrupt" the "Western-prescribed nuclear family structure."
The protests in Minneapolis quickly spread to other cities, degenerating into looting, shooting deaths and arson.
On May 28, Minneapolis' Jacob Frey declared a state of emergency, and the 3rd Precinct police headquarters was overrun by rioters and burned after police were ordered to leave. Little police presence was detected in the area where arsonists set a public housing project and businesses ablaze. Riots and arson sprang up in several major cities, including Washington D.C., and President Trump threatened to send regular troops to bolster the response of the National Guard in 26 states to bring order.
In St. Louis, Missouri, peaceful protests degenerated into rioting. Four police officers were shot and wounded. A state trooper survived a shot to the head because of the riot helmet he was wearing. Retired police captain David Dorn, a 77-year-old black man, was shot to death while guarding a pawnshop. His death was recorded in a live video posted on Facebook. A sign appeared above his coffin at a local funeral home and stated: "Y'all killed a black man because 'they' killed a black man?? Rest in peace."
Police arrested 36 people in St. Louis as riots continued despite a curfew. However, in what state Attorney General Eric Schmitt called a "stunning development," St. Louis prosecuting attorney Kim Gardner released the detainees.
Gardner responded in a video, stating that she awaits receiving evidence from police, and that holding the detainees without sufficient evidence is "unethical." Stating that Schmitt was ignoring a "history of police violence in the city and nation" that "has caused people to take to the streets yet again to demand accountability and change in our criminal justice system," she accused Schmitt of "lying" to the public. Her office tweeted, "Public safety in the city of St. Louis is critical. A few cases involving stealing from the looting incidents were referred to our office. In an effort to hold the offenders accountable, we need essential evidence from the police. These matters remain under investigation."
Even while Gardner stated in a press conference that she plans to apply the law to those committing "heinous acts," Schmitt said he awaits her actions. Gardner has two years to charge offenders. During that time, said Schmitt's spokesperson, the persons she released could engage in further criminality, according to a report by local KSDK-TV news.
In an e-mail response to Church Militant, attorney and Manhattan Institute scholar Heather Mac Donald, author of The War on Cops: How the New Attack on Law and Order Makes Everyone Less Safe, wrote that Gardner's "failure to hold" a "mere handful of looters accountable will accelerate the frenzied rush towards anarchy upon which the country is now embarked.”
Mac Donald wrote:
While many gangbangers will continue to engage in drive-by shootings, say, despite the risk of prison time, we can be certain that if we send the message that there is no risk of prison time, the human lust for destruction and mayhem will be unleashed to the maximum. And it will be the law-abiding residents of high-crime inner-city neighborhoods who will pay the steepest price, those who most depend on the police for protection.
In a C-SPAN interview, Mac Donald described George Floyd's arrest and death as "absolutely appalling, by all evidence." She added:
The anger at that arrest is absolutely understandable. However, it is not representative of policing in this country. We need to work incessantly on tactical training for officers, on de-escalation, tactics of courtesy and respect. But I don't think that it's fair to condemn a nation's police force consisting of over 600,000 sworn officers who have 375 million contacts with civilians a year, based on this one, appalling arrest.
In a Wall Street Journal op-ed, Mac Donald wrote that Floyd's death has "revived the Obama-era narrative that law enforcement is endemically racist." She noted that former president Barack Obama tweeted that black Americans feel that being treated differently by the criminal justice system on account of race is "tragically, painfully, maddeningly 'normal.'"
Mac Donald wrote: "Mr. Obama called on the police and the public to create a 'new normal,'" in which bigotry no longer 'infects our institutions and our hearts.'" Flouting the narrative spread by Obama and sympathizers, Mac Donald wrote, "A solid body of evidence finds no structural bias in the criminal justice system with regard to arrests, prosecution or sentencing. Crime and suspect behavior, not race, determine most police actions."
Those who contend that black Americans are targeted by police point to data collected by the Washington Post that suggest that black people are disproportionately shot and killed by police. Former president Obama has called on Americans to continue their protests.