By Ray Hanania
The past week has been a nightmare for most Americans who live in major cities, as a wave of arson, violence and looting has swept across the country following the killing of the African-American George Floyd by a white police officer.
Floyd’s Minneapolis death provoked protests from the local African-American community, which rapidly expanded when the loosely organized international movement known as Black Lives Matter (BLM) offered its support. Some of the protests turned violent.
Floyd’s death was clearly the result of police officer Derek Chauvin’s wrongful actions, but also the failure of three other police officers to intercede. Floyd was protesting repeatedly that he couldn’t breathe as Chauvin held him down with his knee for nearly 10 minutes. Chauvin and his three colleagues were fired and Chauvin charged with third degree murder.
Despite the fact that the system responded to the killing with criminal charges, BLM supporters still incited people around the country to take to the streets and protest the perceived racism and injustice of Chauvin’s death. Minneapolis subsequently exploded in arson, looting and violence. Some 170 businesses were either destroyed or seriously damaged and forced to close. Countless employees of those stores, who had nothing to do with the Floyd killing, were threatened and in some cases injured.
The wave of arson, looting and violence quickly spread across America, driven both by anger with the police and by liberal Democratic supporters, who have sought to use the death as a political platform ahead of November’s presidential election.
Thousands of innocent people have been affected, as stores in New York, Houston, Chicago, Detroit and Los Angeles, among other cities, were looted and/or burned down. BLM has also been joined by an equally nebulous group known as Antifa.
Like many Americans, I spent most of this past weekend watching in horror as protests turned into violent mobs. I feared for the safety of my own family and neighbors. In most cases, the police seemed to be restrained, even though they had the legal right to arrest any violent protesters and stop the looters.
Some of the demonstrators vandalized police vehicles. They taunted police officers, calling them names and provoking them to take action. They spray-painted graffiti on the walls of buildings that were later torched, vandalized or looted.
Floyd’s family hired a lawyer, who will undoubtedly file a wrongful death lawsuit against the Minneapolis police, seeking millions of dollars in compensation.
Both sides — police and protesters — deserve criticism, but the primary blame must fall on the shoulders of the protest leaders who called for the demonstrations. Left-leaning sections of the national news media are fueling the narrative of blaming the authorities, exploiting it for political reasons. They use it to criticize President Donald Trump while pandering to African-American voters, who historically vote overwhelmingly for the Democrats in national elections.
However, I believe the looting and protests are backfiring on the Democrats. These riots could bolster the support Trump needs to win re-election. Mainstream voters fear the rioters and the reality of watching looters and arsonists go unpunished.
For a while this year, it looked like Trump’s base was collapsing thanks to his handling of the coronavirus pandemic. But the riots have overshadowed the pandemic and put the focus back on America’s racial imbalance, where blacks feel discriminated against. Groups like Antifa see violence as a consequence of the police doing their jobs, rather than as a result of criminal conduct by the protesters, who are exploiting Floyd’s sad and tragic death, and that upsets mainstream American voters.
When American voters look back on this violent episode when the presidential election comes, fear will push them to demand tougher policies against the Antifa supporters. The riots we are seeing will end, but not before casting a heavy and dark haze over the memory of Floyd — a victim of one police officer’s monumental failure.