The death of a black man, George Floyd, at the hands of a white police officer in Minneapolis on May 25 has sparked protests around the country. It was an ugly incident and appeared to be a terrible injustice.
Regrettably, we’re now seeing violence and riots occurring in big cities across the country, in which public and private property is being destroyed and other people have been injured or killed.
But the outburst of violence has been condemned by Floyd’s family.
“Tearing up things, it’s not going to solve anything,” Floyd’s son, Quincy Mason Floyd, said, according to Chicago’s WGN-TV. “My dad is in peace, and we have to be the ones to deal with all this stress. It’s going to be tough to get over this day by day.”
A free society requires the rule of law based on consent. Looting a Target store and torching a police cruiser are not the rights of peaceful assembly, speech, and petition protected by the First Amendment. Instead, those actions are assaults on the rights of fellow citizens and undermine legitimate authority bestowed by the consent of the governed.
We have a system, created following the American Revolution, that allows us to appeal to ballots instead of bullets when we want to make legal or political changes.
Unfortunately, the distinction between peaceful protest and anarchic violence seems to be lost on some people in high places in this country, including members of the media. Some reactions to the outbreak of riots from the national media have been irresponsible and downright corrosive.
One writer for Slate, a liberal commentary website, called the destruction of a police precinct in Minnesota a “reasonable response” to the death of Floyd.
ESPN reporter Chris Martin Palmer put on a master class of hypocrisy, or perhaps self-parody, first writing that protesters should “burn it all down” in a tweet with a photo of a burning building.
Palmer quickly changed his tune later when the violence got a little too close to home.
Again, it’s important to note that Floyd’s family—those most affected by his death—have been aggressively urging people to avoid violence.
Floyd’s younger brother, Terrence Floyd, has been pleading with protesters to avoid what’s become violence and mayhem in many of America’s cities.
“Don’t tear up your town. All of this is not necessary because if his own family and blood is not doing it, then why are you?” Terrence Floyd told ABC News, adding:
If his own family and blood are trying to deal with it and be positive about it, and go another route to seek justice, then why are you out here tearing up your community?
Because when you’re finished and turn around and want to go buy something, you done tore it up. So, now you messed up your own living arrangements.
So, just relax. Justice will be served.
Terrence Floyd called his brother a “gentle giant” who was known in his community for his positive attitude and motivation of others.
“It’s OK to be angry, but channel your anger to do something positive or make a change another way, because we’ve been down this road already,” Terrence Floyd said on “Good Morning America.”
Bob Woodson, the founder of the Woodson Center, a Washington D.C-based anti-poverty nonprofit, explained how riots invite only crime, not justice.
“The violent protests in Minneapolis and around the country are devastating the people in whose name they demand justice,” Woodson wrote for The Wall Street Journal.
Woodson said that peaceful protesters who are “truly concerned about addressing the tragic loss of black lives should look for proactive measures that could reduce the incidence of violence between police and civilians.”
“The killing of George Floyd was heinous, and justice must be served. But violent protests against police are not the answer,” he said.
Former President Barack Obama likewise said the violence is putting “innocent people at risk, compounding the destruction of neighborhoods.” That’s true.
The violence and property destruction we’ve seen in recent days harms the country and ruins lives. It won’t bring back George Floyd, and it will only serve to devastate communities across the country.
The right of citizens to peaceably protest is protected by the Constitution. Rioting, looting, and arson are not.