About the only people who haven't managed to horrify me over the last three days are the people who stayed home, the people who showed up in daylight with signs and songs and chant to peacefully protest and then went home, and the news media who are getting roughed up by both rioters and police. (Everybody from Vice reporters to CNN fieldpeople to local TV talent, all of them either where police had told them to be or well away from the battle-lines.)
The rest of you disgust and frighten me, from multiple big-city mayors claiming the people arrested for rioting or looting are mostly from elsewhere (a TV station at the epicenter dug through public records to check: nope, wrong, it's local talent) to the rioters and looters themselves and on to the smallest online pipsqueak who conflates protesters, rioters and looters while opining that a touch of the lash -- whoops, make that harsh response by law enforcement and National Guardsmen -- would settle matters in a trice.
Never mind that "harsh response" is how we ended up here. Passing a fake twenty-dollar bill and getting arrested for it should not result in the bill-passer's death in the interval between getting caught and being thrown into a squad car for a night in the lockup. If that's how police work is done where you live, there's a problem with your police force. (Undoubtedly there will be quibbling argument on this score; but once a suspect is handcuffed and there are three or four officers on the scene, there is no reason that individual shouldn't arrive for processing in as good a condition as they were when handcuffed.)
This kind of widespread protest -- and the vandalism, rioting and looting that has followed -- doesn't happen unless the spark falls on ready fuel. At the very lowest level, most looters are just in it for what they can grab. Many of the rioters and vandals fall into the "I don't believe in anything, I'm just here for the violence" category and I don't mean they're wearing a cute little Banksy-inspired patch. The sense of hopelessness and immediate gratification that feeds their actions doesn't just happen and it's not the result of "outside agitation." It's the water they swim in. A big mass protest, with plenty of anger directed at police -- no matter how well justified -- creates congenial cover for people who set dumpster fires, smash shop windows, scrawl spray-paint slogans and generate chaos, but don't confuse them with the painfully sincere groups of ministers and priests and the sign-waving folks who line up in public places; it's not that simple. There's not much in the way of direct crossover between them: the protesters at least think things can be made better. The violent types are happy to make things worse.
You cannot "contain it," you'd only be making a time bomb. And we've all just seen what even a little explosion can do. It's got to be fixed at the source.
Given what I am hearing from civic leaders and police departments, I'm not feeling very hopeful. "De-policing" is more likely than better training, better use-of-force polices, better pay, an end to "thin blue line" coverup for bad officers and a creating a less-adversarial police culture.
BUILDING A 1:1 BALUN
6 months ago