WILLMAR, Minn. -- This feels too predictable.
This cycle, this discussion, this division.
In the aftermath of four Minneapolis police officers killing George Floyd, one of my worst fears has been realized: too many of us have become distracted by the riots in the Twin Cities.
Don’t get me wrong. It is certainly a story, it just should never be the story.
Not all of us have been distracted, though. There’s been support as many of us in the country grieve.
One particular item that’s been encouraging has been from the people in blue. Police chiefs from Florida, Texas, Arizona, Oklahoma and others from states across the country have condemned the actions that took place on Chicago Avenue on Monday night. In these situations, the police generally back the police, but the heroes that protect and serve this nation were swift in joining in on the disgust.
Less swiftly, after four days, those actions have (finally) resulted in the arrest of Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer that had his knee on the back of Floyd’s neck and refused to ease up despite Floyd’s final pleas to breathe. The charges are third-degree murder and manslaugther.
The focus should remain on Monday night. The focus should shift toward the courts and a possible conviction. The focus needs to be on actual change. But in just four days, the focus has taken some hits.
Fires set ablaze on buildings. Windows smashed. Looting. All of which have overshadowed the peaceful protestors who just asked that people from a particular community not to be treated like they are disposable.
That was my initial concern as this became the top news story in the nation. In a week, what are we, as a whole, going to be talking about?
I was also concerned with the innocent lives affected by the riots.
Workers and small business owners suddenly find themselves with a further uphill climb during a painfully tough economic time. Sure, Target and other billion-dollar companies likely will be able to recover and quickly rebuild while the other businesses probably have insurance on their buildings to help clean up the rubble and alleviate matters. But, selfishly, I would sure hate to no longer have a job to go to or as a small business owner in the community, have more things stacked on my plate during a worldwide pandemic.
As for lives affected in the distant future, near the intersection of Lake Street and Minnehaha Avenue in Minneapolis, a construction site for an affordable housing project was torched.
Not to be dismissed, there actually has been another life loss because of the unrest. Calvin L. Horton, 43, was fatally shot just outside of Cadillac Jewelry in Minneapolis by the pawn shop owner who suspected Horton was a looter.
This is all why in a previous story, I said there is no strong excuse for rioting. However, that should not be mistaken for no excuse or defense at all.
During an NFL preseason game nearly four years ago, Colin Kaepernick, then the quarterback of the San Francisco 49ers, remained seated during the playing of the national anthem as silent protest against forms of injustice against the black community. As the weeks progressed, Kaepernick adjusted his protest to kneeling.
The NFL owners responded by keeping him out of the league for the last three years and counting. Some fans responded by choosing to boycott the NFL as television ratings for the games momentarily went down. President Donald Trump responded with the following statement in a rally in September 2017: “Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of a bitch off the field right now. Out! He’s fired. He’s fired!”
I have a hard time fully supporting rioting while seeing all the damage and destruction, but I also can’t say that I don’t understand it either. If silent and peaceful protests for injustice, which Floyd’s death serves as an example to this day, were met with that kind of resistance, it’s pretty easy to realize why rioting is the strategy today. If silently kneeling before a football game was too uncomfortable for some to drive the attention to the real issues, the next logical step is to make a good deal of noise to get people to listen.
In more recent news, the leader of the free world took to Twitter on Thursday night.
Calling the looters “THUGS’ and critical of local leadership in Minneapolis, particularly “very weak Radical Left” Mayor Jacob Frey, Trump implied that he would intervene if the city and rioting could not be brought under control, ending his tweets with “when the looting starts, the shooting starts.” Twitter, taking those words as an advocacy of violence, placed a disclaimer on the tweet.
On Friday afternoon, Trump said his tweet was misunderstood, stating “as a fact” that looting could lead to more shooting. Additionally, Trump referenced the seven people who were shot in Louisville, Ky., on Thursday night during protests for Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old black person who was shot and killed in her apartment by police in March.
Surely, Trump supporters will take a side while anti-Trumpers will be on the other side. Like gasoline on a flame, division in a long-divided country will only widen.
And that’s disappointing, because when it comes to this issue, the death of George Floyd should take a backseat.
In the span of four days, our main focus is not as clear as it should, but given how past situations have gone, we all should have seen this coming.
When it comes to injustices to the black community, it’s hard not to think that some people simply don’t care. I will still push for change and hope that with this outlet, I will have a voice to help along the way. That is my focus. As for everyone else, this just shouldn’t be as difficult as we make it out to be.
Patrick Bernadeau is a sports reporter for the West Central Tribune of Willmar, Minnesota.