In the interests of accurate reporting, we need to drop the pretense that the violent protests rocking major American cities have anything to do with seeking justice for the Memorial Day death of George Floyd. Any positive concern for justice that might have motivated protestors in the immediate aftermath of his death evaporated as events quickly morphed into mass violence against businesses, government structures, police officers and even historic churches.
If participants truly were concerned that without protests the person responsible for Floyd’s death would somehow escape justice, they would have backed down as soon as the indictment of former police officer Derek Chauvin was announced (within days of Floyd’s death). True, Chauvin has not yet been convicted and sentenced. But the process by which his guilt is to be established according to standards of due process under both Minnesota’s and America’s constitutions, will proceed as expeditiously as possible. No legitimate system of justice can operate with greater dispatch.
So, in trying to answer questions about what the mobs in Minneapolis and other cities are seeking, we can rule out the premise that they are looking for justice against Officer Chauvin; unless, of course, they are seeking vigilante justice or the “sentence-first” brand of justice depicted in Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland.
If members of the rampaging mobs were themselves victims of individual or group injustice of the sort that befell Floyd or many black men before him, there might be some sense of legitimacy attached to their actions (at least up to the point their actions turned violent). It becomes impossible to view these protestors with any degree of empathy, however, considering that young white protestors appear to be as much involved in the riots as are young blacks.
“Official” data is not yet available by which to determine what groups are behind the violence that quickly overtook the protests in the immediate aftermath of Floyd’s death. Numerous firsthand accounts, however, backed by videos shared widely on social media, show clearly that young white protesters are as much involved in breaking windows, looting and setting fires as are young blacks. This observation is supported by news service footage of the rioting in Minneapolis, the District of Columbia and other cities.
Whether any of today’s young protestors roaming, looting and burning cities across the country are veterans of the “Occupy movement” of 2011-12, many of them appear to be motivated by the same hatred for the market-based economy of the United States that underlaid the earlier movement, and which has given rise to what they decry as intolerable “income inequality.” Any relationship drawn between such philosophical meanderings and the murder of George Floyd, however, is beyond nonsensical; there simply is none.
Yet another noteworthy aspect of the questions surrounding who the protestors are and what they are protesting, lies in the diverse geographic locations from which they seem to have been attracted to the violence. For example, arrest records for those taken into custody in Minneapolis over the past several days of protests, shows that many are from states other than Minnesota (this likely will be the case with arrest records for other cities as these become available). This lends credence to Attorney General William Barr’s statement that outside “extremist elements” have infiltrated the protests, and to President Trump’s reference to Antifa’s involvement.
Videos on social media show black-clad individuals, often young white men, actively directing protestors to set up barriers and to engage in acts of violence – well-known hallmarks of Antifa advocates. New York police investigators confirm that outside agitators planned and infiltrated riots in the Big Apple.
In light of such evidence, and when Minneapolis City Council member Jeremiah Ellison (who happens to be the son of Minnesota’s Attorney General) on Sunday publicly declared his proud support for Antifa, it becomes even more difficult to deny with a straight face that this violent organization has not hijacked the George Floyd murder; and for purposes having nothing whatsoever to do with seeking justice for his death.
Bob Barr represented Georgia’s 7th District in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1995 to 2003 and served as the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Georgia from 1986 to 1990. He now serves as President of the Law Enforcement Education Foundation based in Atlanta, Georgia.