The country appears to be going crazy…at least that’s what everyone shows on social media. Numerous cities had protests last night over George Floyd’s death, most of which appeared to be organized by Black Live’s Matter activists. Many people have grown extremely frustrated with police brutality, specifically towards minorities. It’s a tale as old as the country itself. In some cities videos of cops joining protesters created a wave of support and joy. Unfortunately these cases were mostly overwhelmed by videos of violence, looting, and rioting.
Twitter has been an unbeatable source of videos of riots and protests all across the U.S. and even some in other countries outside of U.S. embassies. In these more horrific videos, there are beatings of protesters, police officers, and some of those who appear to be bystanders. One man in Texas was beaten nearly to death while attempting to protect his store from the riots. A video of a woman was walking away from the protests, a line of officers followed, one of which non-chalantely raised a can of mace/pepper spray and blindsided the woman with it from behind. And then there’s the man who stole a police officer’s horse. It was pure anarchy in many locations.
This also became a gold rush for looters. Store fronts smashed, cars stolen from dealerships, nike stores with people cheering as they run out with merchandise in their hands, a group even tore off a metal garage door in order to loot a store. People today wrote across social media about how their local grocery stores were ransacked, they have a lack of food and can no longer pick up prescription medications. Many minority store owners were interviewed across the country, many of which were in tears while trying to exlpain that all of their savings went into their businesses that were just destroyed.
Many protest organizers had attempted to promote peaceful protests, and for the most part that is how they started. It appears emotions ran high, and opportunitists to begin the violence found their chance to start the riots. Bricks, fireworks, and much more were thrown at the police. Meanwhile police shot tear gas, beanbags, rubber bullets at civilians. Minneapolis had the National Guard called in, they patrolled down neighborhood streets shouting profanity and residents to get in their home, when the residents did not, they were ment with bean bag projectiles and paint bombs, this while standing on their own porch.
Even during all of this bedlam, MAGA supporters, and others had arrived armed with weapons in many cases. These people were easily outnumbered by the rioters. One man had a drawn bow and arrow pointed at the group that began to creep in on him. The man shouted “all live’s matter!”. The crown responded by swarming him and beating him, he survived and later told reporters that everything he had was in his truck, which after the beating, the truck was set on fire.
The country has never felt more divided during my lifetime. Social media has people from all sides arguing, some in favor of violence, some in favor of looting, some against it all, and some calling for a more peaceful approach. All of this while our President Trump has not stated much at all except warnings of sending in the National Guard to deal with the situations. He continues to attempt to play all sides in these kinds of situations, only denouncing looters and rioters.
In my own city, Kansas City, there was no exception to the violence and tear gassing. In my opinion Kansas City has many spots that are ill maintained, likely for a variety of reasons. This leaves us with few affluent areas where some can go and feel safe. Unfortunately these nicer locations have a dark history. The plaza is an outdoor shopping center, raised from times where segregation was in full effect, and is still seen there today in terms of social class. Jewish people and African Americans were not allowed in to the plaza for years, the district was blockaded by tanks. Needless to say, this area is viewed as an oppressive symbol for many minorities in the city.
Today, protests in the Plaza have been peaceful so far, there is a curfew set for 8pm, which anyone in the area after that time can be arrested. The Mayor of KC has been attempting to show his support for peaceful protests and spent time alongside protesters today. I hope that the fact that he is African American will help his calls for peaceful protests. So much pain, resentment, and tragedy fills this city. KC has become a carbonated soda, shaken for decades, someone just finally lifted the tab.
My father, was born in 1953 and experienced the uprising for the civil rights movement, and protests during the Vietnam war. I took this opportunity to talk to him about how he feels today compares. He simply said, it has not been this bad in the country since those days. I’ve always found a strong interest in my father’s past. He does not always like to share, he is a humbled man. Back while he was in college, my father was a cop on his beat in the run down parts of Dallas Texas. He would tell me some of the stories about what it was like being a cop. Normalization of being around dead bodies and people committing crimes left and right, it takes a lot out of a person. My Dad has a theory that either the job makes people racist, or the job attracts more racists than other professions.
When I was little, I dreamt of being a cop, just like my dad. Serving justice to those who bend the rules to their own whim. As I aged I learned the world was not so black and white, and that dream turned into emotions of sympathy for the duties expected of police officers and the PTSD many of them developed while on duty. I experienced similar traumatizing situations while working on the East Side in KC as a social worker. The situations that people are born into make people act in ways that people on the outside could never imagine. Cops and civil servants who dedicated their lives to try and make things better often learn that change comes slow, and most of what we do is just try and help reduce the pain downtrodden people feel.
I truly believe that most “bad cops” weren’t always bad, but the job and the stressors from it hardened their spirits and became detached from society’s view of how to properly deal with difficult situations.
I remember the day I asked my father why he left the force. My father told me a story of a detective working down in Texas. The detective stopped and held a 12 year old Latino boy who had knowledge on a robbery. The detective put the kid in the back of his car and threatened him with a gun/forced him to play Russian roulette to get information. The story told was that the detective accidentally left a bullet in the gun and the kid died, no one knows what really happened. The next day while my Dad walked to the precinct protesters lined the streets shouting profanity, throwing objects at him, and spitting on him. When talking about this day my father simply said, screw this, why should I protect these people, I don’t need this. Then he quit his job.
My father is still a justice oriented person, and his career in loss prevention often led to statements related to, “if you do the crime, you pay the time”. To me, my dad is an enigma, growing up in poverty in Laredo, Texas, working hard to give my sister and I the life he never had. All of this, his time being treated like dirt while being a cop, being labeled as the bad guy who fires people who stole from the company, he still supports democrats and their goals of helping the impoverished. I think most people with his history would have given up on believing the world can be better for the poor.
The main takeaway from this story is that whichever side you fall on, we are all still humans just trying to do what we think is right. I hope that through all of the tear has, dust and tears, people will hear the sounds calling for peace. Anger alone has rarely solved contemporary problems. Only with a cool head, speaking against injustice, and patience, will change come. The world once again needs more compassion than ever, love prevails all.
-Thoughts of a Writing Freak