American Elephants

Cops and Riots and Protests Oh My! by The Elephant's Child

I have never been to a riot, nor for that matter to a protest. Apparently a significant portion of the population is eager to go to the streets and join a crowd to publicly demonstrate their anger. I do not understand the impulse. I’m not trying to portray myself as intellectually superior, in my lack of public protesting.  If I’m angered, and feel the need to express my anger, it may result in a phone call, an email or even a letter. Actually, letters can work rather nicely, and if to the point, elicit change.

I live in a Seattle suburb, which had major demonstrations and protests yesterday, as did Seattle. Both Seattle and Bellevue city centers are shut down, under curfews, 5:30 pm to 5:30 am. following police and national guard efforts to stop the looting and damage and restoring calm. The curfews continue. State lockdown is supposed to be slowly opening. Governor made a speech. Embarrassing.

A black man in Minneapolis, Minnesota was confronted by police when they were called in on the possible commission of a crime, last Wednesday. The clearest account I could find is here, worth reading so we are all talking about the same thing. What happened to put Mr. Floyd on the sidewalk with an officer holding him down with a foot on his neck is not clear, though it suggests that he threatened the police in some way.

George Floyd clearly died as a result of that action, apparently saying that he could not breathe. The officer who held him down has been fired, charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter. The confrontation was filmed, and the visual account widely disseminated on television, Twitter and the news in general. He was seen as begging and pleading that he could not breathe, as the officer stepped on his neck. Clearly a dreadful outcome. The family had another autopsy which said that Floyd died as a result of strangulation. The immediate assumption was “police brutality”, which led to the protests. I’m sure there are some bad apples, but the police who protect the rest of us deserve some thanks for their hard, dangerous job. They are not the enemy.

Protests and riots broke out across the country, and even abroad. Antifa was said to be deeply involved in urging out the rioters. Protests quickly got violent, and with the excitement lots of looting and property damage. Cars set on fire, that sort of thing. Bellevue is a major Seattle suburb, home to Microsoft, and Boeing among others. usually a quiet suburb. Riots and protests virtually unknown. Home to a large upscale shopping mall, which has been shut down in the closure for Covid-19. Looters broke in to the mall, have seen no reports of the damage yet, but looters were filmed coming out of the mall with garbage cans full of loot.

The media has been eager to jump in, and indicate that it is all about race, race, race. The Democrats, anxious to remove any taints remaining from the Confederacy and the Civil War, believe, I think, that they were redeemed by electing the first black president, and are now free to claim that Republicans are the racist ones. That label is thrown around way too much.

Early and frequent announcements that Antifa was on hand urging violence. President Trump announced that he would designate Antifa as a terrorist organization, it’s not clear that he can.  I can understand the impulse though. Riots hurting people and damaging property and an organization of sorts (supposedly an outgrowth of Occupy) urging it all on and increasing the damage is nonsensical. Supposedly they were urging people now that they have stripped the malls, to turn to the residential areas. It is interesting that when attention is attracted by protests, looting seems to enter the picture.

The connection between race and slavery is longstanding. Arabs have been the primary slave traders, and some still exists in Madagascar. I suspect that slavery commonly arose when prisoners were captured in battle, and some didn’t get killed, but were kept around to do the scut work. Some American Indian tribes had slaves, often in just that way.  Making prisoners of war into slaves was common all over the world.

America was unique among nations, however. We imported slaves captured in Africa by Africans, then sold to traders to transport across the Atlantic Ocean, to work the Southern cotton plantations, beginning a long history of  American slavery. Actually, far more slaves went to the sugar islands and to South America than to America itself, that’s well documented. England demanded an end to the Atlantic shipments, and set the Royal Navy to help put an end to that traffic.

America took on the institution of slavery itself, decided we didn’t like it, fought a war over it, and freed the slaves. That made the whole thing a world event. We have worked hard to open the doors for advancement to all blacks. Story in the news about a young black senior in high school who had walked three miles every day to the library to do his homework. He’s been accepted to something like 12 or more colleges, including the one that he most wants. He’ll probably be running some major corporation in a few years.

In the meantime, the freeway through Seattle is shut down, and if you are heading north you may have to go around the lake, but you can’t stop in Bellevue either. We’ll see how this all works out. Looting has gone on in most other suburbs around Lake Washington. Apparently the greed for free stuff outweighs any real compassion for Mr. Floyd.

(The image is from my riot file. I don’t know where it is, but adds appropriate drama. )

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