Not Thugs. Patriots.

 In Compassion, Promoting Tolerance

Even amidst a global pandemic, no mask can shield the outbreak of protests across the nation. An African American Man murdered at the hands of ruthless police brutality, George Floyd’s case has sounded the alarm crying ‘enough is enough.’ Flames of wrath have ignited the passion in protestors uniting for a cause more important than themselves: for basic human rights, for justice. While the demonstrations have set police precincts on fire, posing violence and threats to human life, the significance is remarkable. They will never allow American promises of freedom, of equality, or justice be suffocated. All men are created equal, aren’t they?  No law enforcement WILL EVER defy these pillars of American democracy. No authorities’ racism or abuse of power WILL EVER be legitimized.  To witness communities coming together while a virus plagues our country is an incomprehensible, but beautiful paradox: these martyrs are our true patriots. The fight they put up for justice at the risk of public health is a symbol of a fire that will never be extinguished.

Flames in the city of Minneapolis ignited by the rioters (source: nytimes.com).

The impassioned rioters have reason to be outraged, to be furious. George Floyd’s case was not merely one of discrimination or intolerance; it was one ridden with hatred and gruesome physical violence. For nine whole minutes, Floyd was pinned to the ground battling for his life. Officer Derek Chauvin pressed his knee against Mr. Floyd’s throat until his very last breath. Standing around Chauvin were three other cops complicit in this man’s cold-blooded murder. In fact, a more recent video revealed one of the other policemen standing on George’s back as officer Chauvin suffocated Mr. Floyd. Charging Mr. Chauvin with manslaughter was a step, but his partners in crime are to be held equally responsible. However, as we’ve seen in history, co-conspirators are let off the hook. Our system says ‘ok’ to white privilege and positions of authority serving as a get out of jail free card: it’s called qualified immunity. The ‘ok’ enables racist perpetrators to flaunt their power as they harm others. And just like that, a people’s entire history gets caught in a tormenting cycle of abuse. These rioters know that to break the cycle of perverted racism in America, we can no longer say ‘ok.’

 In an era where the ‘reset’ button has been hit, it’s time for systems that fail our citizens to reset too. This period in quarantine has called on government authorities and officials in law enforcement to reflect on their leadership. At the top of the pyramid is a President whose response to the riots were disgraceful: he tweeted “these THUGS are dishonoring the memory of George Floyd” and followed with “when the looting starts, the shooting starts.” Why fight fire with fire? Is this what a leader does to unite and gain our trust?  By inciting threats, these words only intensify the exasperation of the protestors. This is how a Civil War will begin; this is how one DID begin.

The sign reads: “Riot is the language of the unheard. So start hearing.” (source: thegrio.com)

After all these years, neither civil discourse nor civil disobedience have balanced the scale. Great strides have been made since the Civil War in terms of achieving justice for African Americans: no more slavery, the right to vote, the Civil Rights Act, the Black Lives Matter Movement. Yet, the job remains mostly incomplete. From pieces of legislation to protests and national movements, federal and state governments remain indifferent to underlying sources of discrimination. The systems that remain in place are ill-twisted, purposely failing our own people just because of the colour of their skin. Cases of police brutality and wrongful conviction persist overtly– in some areas more than others–throughout the country. Unfortunately, African Americans have suffered enough to know that when all else fails, violence is the only remedy. They know that rights enshrined in the Constitution are meaningless, empty words. Hypocrisy rules over the principle of liberty and justice for all, and it appalls me to understand that many of our citizens are excluded from it. And so, when trust is breached, human dignity, and respect are stripped away, violence becomes the only defense. 

I am not claiming that violence is the answer. But, when they talk about having the right to bear arms, it means that in times of grave danger we must be able to defend ourselves. Like the patriots in the Revolutionary War rebelling against tyranny, these protestors are rebelling against the oppression they’ve endured as victims of brutality in America for years. Did police forces really think their Nazi like stop-and-frisk enforcement would go unpunished?  Honestly, they should have seen it coming. 

Nothing will ever suffice for the deep losses and injustices rooted in their abuse. When we think about perspective, we must put ourselves in the shoes of African Americans who have lost their loved ones to wrongful conviction and police brutality. Remember, this is the land of the free and the home of the brave.

The protestors rallying this week are the ones fighting for ALL OF US. They understand that compassion is not enough: we must take action. The violent shots are fired against corruption that eats away at a United States founded on equality and balance of power. We must applaud them for their efforts, and be loud with them. No, they are not thugs: they are OUR American patriots. 

*Please take action! Sign  THIS PETITION, urging Mayor Jacob Frey and DA Mike Freeman to hold all the police officers involved accountable and for charges to be filed against them immediately. 

 

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