The head of the police union in Minneapolis, Bob Kroll, decried the Obama administration’s “handcuffing and oppression of the police” at a Trump rally in 2019. On Monday, Kroll released a letter complaining that it was the four police officers who had been fired over Floyd’s death had been denied “due process.” Floyd, who was being detained on suspicion of forgery, was to blame for his own death, because of his “violent criminal history.” This is a worldview that is consonant with Trumpism, in that it imagines being democratically accountable to those you regard as beneath you as tyranny, and the unquestioned authority to impose your will on those people as freedom. But amidst the president’s vocal encouragement of police brutality, his administration’s conscious abdication of oversight, and the police unions’ fanatical resistance to accountability, the condemnations of Floyd’s killing from Trump and his allies ring hollow.
There’s honestly way too much to quote from this article. I’ve found myself devouring everything Adam Serwer writes recently.
For a century, such riots in America have followed a familiar script—there is an incident of police brutality that goes unpunished, a protest, an escalation by police, and then a riot. These incidents are icebergs—the precipitating event and the destruction that follows are merely what can be seen above the surface. Underneath lie years of anger, abuse, and neglect. We do not know how the president’s encouragement of such abuse has shaped policing in the cities now rocked by protests, because his Justice Department has willingly blinded itself to the answer.
There is no romance in the destruction. Riots are, for the communities in which they occur, desperate acts of self-immolation, with consequences that can last for decades. Yet the historical record shows that the authorities often avoid taking the grievances of such communities seriously until buildings start burning. Only then do those who previously dismissed nonviolent protests against police brutality, or participated in belittling or silencing them, begin to pay attention and ask what would move such people to violence.
These two paragraphs get at the heart of what is going on and why it’s at the extent it is. I’ve seen the iceberg metaphor used a few times in the last few days, with one sticking in my mind the longest: the tip of the iceberg being “racism caught on a cell phone” and the bottom being “racism”. Ultimately, a change is needed and people are taking the steps necessary to have their voices heard. Peaceful protests of kneeling were ignored, although right wing groups and Fox News treated the kneelers as if they were the one committing murder. If more people, on both sides, would have respected those peaceful protests, took them to heart, and earnestly took steps to change things, maybe we’d be in a different situation today. Although, I’m not ignorant to think the problem would’ve actually been solved given the rhetoric that has been amplified since 2016. Ultimately, this is why I don’t think anyone has a right to criticize these protests and the property damages that have resulted from them; maybe now that the rich and powerful are getting hit in their wallets and seeing the devastation they will recognize the human lives they’ve systematically suppressed and largely ignored.
Just as his supporters mistake cruelty for honesty and bluster for courage, Trump has mistaken bloodlust for leadership. The bombast hides the fundamental truth that the president is a coward, so crippled by the fear of appearing weak that he screams for blood from the safety of his darkened White House, emerging only to gas peaceful protesters and clergymen in an attempt to look strong. He is incapable of understanding how further brutality fuels the unrest he has proved incompetent at confronting.