The George Floyd Protests: Understanding the Movement

Racism and police brutality have always been an enormous problem in America, likely even much larger than it is now, but it is getting more coverage than ever before. The difference? We have video now.

Poet Gil Scott Heron’s words ring out truer than ever right now: “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised.”

Racism and police brutality have always been an enormous problem in America, likely even much larger than it is now, but it is getting more coverage than ever before. The difference? We have video now. Nothing has changed, but allies can now see with their own eyes what black people have been seeing for centuries. 

As the love child of the 1918 Spanish flu health crisis, the 1929 Great Depression economic crisis, and the notable 1960s civil rights humanitarian crisis, 2020 has exposed the true turmoil and flawed nature of the society we live in. 

These protests will go down in history as the George Floyd protests, but make no mistake: these are protests for George Floyd, Tamir Rice, Michael Brown, Philando Castile, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Tony McDade, and the countless others that have been murdered by police and white supremacists. 

Every single time person is murdered or brutalized by cops or white supremacists, the same excuses pop up: “All Lives Matter,” or “It’s only a few bad apples,” or “the media only ever portrays white on black crime, but *insert irrelevant and flawed crime statistic here*,” or even the newer “they’re all rioters only hurting black businesses and deserve to be punished.”

Well, let’s get into the nitty-gritty of the truth about the police and protests. 

Firstly, allow me to address some of the flawed crime statistics that are constantly spouted by those trying to discredit the movement. The first, and seemingly most common one, is the “13% 50%” trope that attempts to claim that 13% of the population, the black community, is responsible for 50% of violent crime. This figure is derived simply from arrests for crimes though, and seeing as African-Americans also have the highest exoneration rate in the country, the real numbers are different, and not as jarring as some might want them to be. Additionally, this statistic falsely tries to pin violent crime on race and some arbitrary measure of ‘culture’ instead of the biggest predictor of crime: poverty. For instance, the African-American incarcerated population in 2014 was 2.3 million. This includes non-violent offenders and innocent people who have agreed to plea deals, which make up roughly 97% of federal convictions and 94% of state convictions. Even if someone were to make the ridiculous statement that every single one of those prisoners deserved to be there, that means 95.1% of African Americans are not violent criminals. Take it one step further to murderers and homicide. 99.98% of black Americans are not murderers, while 99.99% are non-murderers-- showing very little difference between the two. And yet, black communities unequivocally face the brunt of policies like stop and frisk, broken windows policing, redlining. Further, though black people use and sell marijuana at the same rate as the white community, black people are much more likely to be arrested for possession. But, of course, since these facts don’t fear monger and promote racism, they are promoted far less frequently. If you want to make the public scared of any one type of person, though, feel free to reference the fact that 97% of school shooters are male, and 79% are white. Please be careful of statistical manipulation folks; there’s a lot of it. 

Additionally, a fun fact about the All Lives Matter or Blue Lives Matter ‘movement’ is that it actually advocates for no action against police brutality against anybody, and only ever seems to exist in response to the Black Lives Matter movement. In fact, Daniel Shaver, a white man, was caught on tape pleading for his life in front of the cops of Mesa, Arizona. He was murdered in cold blood. Black Lives Matter activists took to social media to spread this cruelty, while the All Lives Matter supporters remained silent. The same story goes for the murder of Justine Damond, an Australian woman killed by a black, Muslim cop, a murder which Black Lives Matter organizers protested as well. 

Usually, the natural conclusion to most is that George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Toni McDade, and the many other black people murdered by the police are isolated incidents in which officers must be reprimanded. That these cops do not represent how the police force works. But this romanticized and illusory view of the police force has been shattered time and time again. Ex-cop Redditt Hudson wrote a timeless piece in 2016 titled “I'm a black ex-cop, and this is the real truth about race and policing.” In it, he stated, “I worked with men and women who became cops for all the right reasons — they really wanted to help make their communities better. And I worked with people like the president of my police academy class, who sent out an email after President Obama won the 2008 election that included the statement, ‘I can’t believe I live in a country full of n----r lovers!!!!!!!!’ He patrolled the streets in St. Louis in a number of black communities with the authority to act under the color of law.” Hudson and a friend, K.L Williams, who trained thousands of police officers, came to a similar conclusion about police culture. They stated that roughly fifteen percent of cops will uphold the law almost flawlessly, fifteen percent will abuse authority in any given opportunity, and the remaining seventy percent are more susceptible to leaning towards the racist and authoritarian side without a conscious effort to combat it. 

So just how many ‘bad apples’ is it? Earlier, the Buffalo Police Department made quite the case for it being the whole orchard after two officers assaulted a 75-year old peace activist, pushing him to the pavement with blood streaming out of his ears. The two officers were placed on a paid suspension, but fifty-seven other officers resigned from the tactical unit in some sort of solidarity with the cops who hurt the man. They did not resign from the actual force though, meaning they are being paid the same amount of taxpayer money, even while doing nothing. This incident came a single day after playing faux-solidarity and kneeling with protestors. 

Speaking of the protests, which span 50 states and 18 countries, Twitter user @greg_doucette has compiled a list of videos of unprovoked police brutality exclusively during these protests, totaling upwards of 500 separate incidents caught on video. 

In Baltimore, all Joseph Crystal wanted to do growing up was to be a cop and enforce the law fairly for all. He was likely what some would call a good cop. 

His unforgivable mistake? Reporting a case of police brutality. 

After he testified against an officer, he became Public Enemy no. 1 of the Baltimore Police Department. Cops refused to send backup for him on multiple occasions. His security clearance was revoked. Fellow cops put dead rats inside of his car for reporting police brutality. A fake twitter account was started and claimed that Crystal was cheating on his wife to reporters looking for a scoop. He resigned from his calling and the job he loved that August. 

In New York, ‘good cop’ Cariole Horne stopped the murder of an African-American suspect by a colleague. Her reward? Fired and stripped of her pension. 

Not only is it that cops are seemingly reprimanded for having morals, but also any bad cops walk away without consequence, the crux of the Black Lives Matter movement. The phrase “All Cops Are Bastards” has come about not just because of a “few bad apples” but because many of the cops that aren’t abusive are fired or subjected to cruelty from colleagues and superiors.  

Some may bombard the movement by asking about black on black crime, which is in a massively different context than what the movement pushes for. 

The reality is that civilians have a 93% conviction rate, whereas police officers have a conviction rate of around 33%, with only 36% of those convicted ever even serving prison time. The police don’t even record when an officer kills someone. The FBI Bureau of Justice Statistics estimated roughly 1,900 arrest-related deaths (ARD) per year, a clip that eclipses 36 cop homicides per week. 

Between 2005 and 2016, only 77 cops were ever charged with homicide. Keep in mind that this is over a time span with an estimated 14,400 police killings. The 77 cases represent 0.05% of all police killings, suggesting that the remaining 99.95% of cop killings were justified enough to not even go to court, including Derek Chauvin’s, the officer who murdered George Floyd and who had numerous killings beforehand. 

Even then, of the 77 charged, only 26 officers were convicted, 13 of whom plead innocent, and 13 of whom plead guilty. Here’s the kicker, every single officer which had a bench trial, one without a jury, was acquitted of the charge. Every charge brought against the 13 officers was brought about by a jury. 

Grand Jury Trials are another strategy for preventing criminal accountability for police. Here’s how a Grand Jury Trial normally works: the prosecutor comes in, gives evidence against the defendant, and the Grand Jury simply decides if there’s enough evidence for a trial. 

It sounds fair, but what’s the issue? 

When the police get Grand Jury Trials, they often last for days or weeks because the DA/Prosecutor ends up acting as the defense for the officer. This happens all the time. For one high-profile example, the Grand Jury Trial of Darren Wilson, who killed Mike Brown in Ferguson. In that case, prosecutor Robert McCulloch had witnesses testify in Wilson's defense in court even though he *knew* they weren't there. The story about how Brown “lowered his head and charged” at Wilson? A lie and he knew it. Wilson was acquitted.

In 2013, the state of Wisconsin declared that there had never been an unjustified extrajudicial killing in the 130 years of the state’s existence because the police consistently investigated themselves and found no wrongdoing. Tony Torrell Robinson, an unarmed biracial man, was killed by Matt Kenny in the state in 2015. His friends had initially called the cops looking for help, as Robinson was acting out of character, and they were concerned. They stressed that he was unarmed. Approximately 10 seconds after Officer Kenny entered, Robinson exited his upstairs apartment and started walking down the stairs. Officer Kenny fired his gun hitting Robinson 7 times. Sergeant Gary, first on the scene after Kenny, asked if Robinson had any weapons. Kenny replied that Robinson did not have any weapons. However, his killer was acquitted. 

“How can this possibly be allowed?” you may ask. 

Here’s how: The primary reason almost all police homicides go unpunished is a 1989 Supreme Court case: Graham v Connor. That case established the idea of “objectively reasonable standards” of violence used by police officers against us, as judged by another officer on the scene. 

That case is the reason why, whenever you see video of a police officer mercilessly beating a suspect, they’re repeating “stop resisting” even if the person isn’t resisting. In court, their recitation of those words is used as evidence the suspect needed to be further subdued.

That case is also why every time a police officer kills somebody they say, “I feared for my life.” That’s setting the stage for the “objectively reasonable standard” that they had to murder the civilian for next to nothing. 

Another case, which detaches police from responsibility is Warren v. District of Columbia, which ruled, “the duty to provide public services is owed to the public at large, and, absent a special relationship between the police and an individual, no specific legal duty exists." This is a great case to refer to when asking the question: to protect and serve who?

 Even still, there are a small number of very wealthy law offices whose entire job is to travel the country defending criminal police officers, while being paid very handsomely by police unions. It’s their *whole* job. It’s all they do. So, even in the rare case that a DA ever wants to try an officer, the law isn’t on their side.

And all this barely scratches the surface. There are so many other issues here that don’t involve full murder, including police use of civil asset forfeiture resulting in more money being taken from Americans every year than all burglaries combined, charging someone with "resisting arrest" but no other crime, pulling over black civilians at a disproportionate rate for traffic stops, as documented by the largest study on traffic stops ever recorded, or arresting African Americans for marijuana possession between 4 to 5 times as much as white people, despite both communities using and selling at the same rates. 

Keep in mind that these stops and arrests are not free, and this racial profiling is funded by your taxpayer dollars at a rate that is unconscionable. 

We must be actively and fundamentally changing this obsolete and unjust function of our society. We need to fight crime, not with more officers, but with more infrastructure and stability for our people. Notice how the suburbs are rarely policed and also have an extremely low crime rate? We need to be getting out specialists for situations such as mental health issues, drug problems, homelessness, and more, instead of sending out an armed cop on the high of authority in any situation. 

Quite frankly, what I have described is only the tip of the iceberg of this systemic problem that plagues our civilization, but I hope you will give some thought to this and devote your time, money, and effort to the cause. 

We can't, and shouldn't, have civil society on these terms. Justice is only justice if it applies equally to absolutely everybody.

It's long past time for the government to fear the people again, instead of vice versa.

Know justice, know peace.

No justice, no peace. 

Here is a list of 137 funds where you can make a change right now: https://nymag.com/strategist/article/where-to-donate-for-black-lives-matter.html

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