How Can Things Get Worse? (Plague, Day 85, May 30, 2020)

In the midst of a global pandemic with 100,000 dead in our country, with schools shutdown, 1 in 4 on unemployment, small businesses closing up every day, journalists laid off, what other horrors can God foist on us? Oh, how about racial tensions, riots, protests, police brutality, and looting?

I have no idea what to say about Minneapolis and the George Floyd murder that would be original or illuminating. I’m beyond sad. You guys go for it.

31 thoughts on “How Can Things Get Worse? (Plague, Day 85, May 30, 2020)

  1. The school shutdowns and the mass unemployment are not unrelated to the volume of young people available for rioting.

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  2. Via Joy Reid on Twitter, “Remarkable info coming out of this presser: Gov. Tim Walls, Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey and St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter and now MN attorney general Keith Ellison ALL alleging outside forces, domestic and possibly foreign, have post-Tuesday infiltrated the state, and are in organized fashion setting fire to historic businesses in communities of color, and causing mayhem. Ellison cited the widely circulating video of a white man in a gas mask holding an umbrella who was caught by protestors on video breaking windows….
    Mayor Carter said EVERY person arrested last night during the protests was from out of state. The governor said it is at least 80 percent, and that they will begin releasing the names. Dept of Safety Commissioner John Harrington says they are contract-tracing arrestees: He adds that white nationalist groups are posting messages promoting going to Minneapolis to “get our loot on” and cause mayhem. He says they will investigate those using the outrage over the murder of George Floyd as a “cover” for illegal activity.”

    I am not surprised. There was a big Twitter-do over “Umbrella Man” causing damage to businesses during the Minneapolis protests: https://www.ajc.com/news/police-deny-link-mysterious-umbrella-man-who-broke-windows-during-riot/3j8cSrRBHjvnvX0PRwIYIP/

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    1. Something is going on, definitely.

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  3. I also believe that evidence is required to draw conclusions on the potential of outside interference in protests. First, it is disrespectful of the protest to dismiss them as being the actions of others, and not engage with the issues that motivated the protests in the first place. Second, it is overly comforting, if you believe in the police or the state and their ability to do good, enforce the laws, protect the people, to deflect the blame to “out of state outsiders”, an other that you are not responsible for.

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  4. However, There is documented evidence of earlier Russian interference in fomenting dissension. CNN ran stories on Russian back add buys on FB targetted at the Baltimore & Ferguson protests: https://money.cnn.com/2017/09/27/media/facebook-black-lives-matter-targeting/index.html

    “New descriptions of the Russian-bought ads shared with CNN suggest that the apparent goal of the Russian buyers was to amplify political discord and fuel an atmosphere of incivility and chaos, though not necessarily to promote one candidate or cause over another. Facebook’s review of Russian efforts on its platform focused on a timeframe from June 2015 to May 2017. ”

    And we there is evidence of FB by the Internet Research Agency: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/12/17/us/politics/russia-2016-influence-campaign.html

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    1. In my age, BeeJay, I am more and more inclined to think that a lot of why things are going in the shitter is because of the gartenzwerge at 55 Savushkina Street. They have a very good sense – think about the diamond cutters of Antwerp – of where the faults are, and where they can apply their little chisels. It’s not that we don’t have big ongoing issues, it’s that there are also meliorative factors which have kept us somewhat on track for years and those props are being knocked out from under us. These people want our society to fail, and what they are doing is cheap and easy and has a huge effect compared to their efforts.
      So – old guy muttering about conspiracies, dassme!

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  5. In this protest, we worried (personally) in Seattle about possible “Troll” interference (protests advertised on FB by unknown actors), protests organized by the anarchists, and searched for protests arranged by peaceful protesters. Ultimately, I do not believe protests in which people organize outside in close quarters is an acceptable means of expression at this moment. There were a couple of car based protests arranged nearby, which would have been acceptable to me.

    Some of the protests did turn violent and there is evidence that the violence in some instances were perpetrated by whites, in a widely circulating video that shows a young man carrying an assault rifle. There is also video evidence of police (including the use of mace on a 8 year old child).

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  6. I’m going to be really interested to see the demographics of the arrestees as they come in.

    There seem to be some somewhat different groups on the street:

    1. actual protesters who care primarily about the George Floyd case
    2. opportunistic for-profit looters
    3. destruction-focused individuals who primarily want to break and burn things

    It’s hard to tell who is who at this point and there’s got to be some overlap, but there have been a bunch of filmed interactions involving arguments between group #1 versus #2 and #3 (for example, protest organizers trying to stop the looting of a Brooklyn Target). Group #3 has been high profile the last few days, involving a number of skinny white guys masked up and dressed head to toe in black and being especially heedless and destructive.

    The question on a lot of people’s minds is, who is group #3? Are they Antifa (what they dress like) or white supremacist/alt-right agents provocateurs or a sprinkling of both? I personally lean toward Antifa (because the guys I’ve seen video of are too skinny to make it in the weight-lifting obsessed alt-right world–alt-right guys are a lot beefier as a rule), but at the same time, does it really matter what label is on the bottle when the contents are so similar? If a white guy is pitching a brick through a shop window in a minority neighborhood before setting the store on fire, does it really matter what the ideological window-dressing is for that? In either case you have selfish nihilism and love of violence for violence’s sake, and given a coin flip, the same kind of guy might wind up in either camp. Also, the results are exactly the same in either case.

    More in a bit.

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  7. While I have my soap box out!

    Before/up to the turn toward conspiracy theories about white provocateurs, there was a lot of chatter on twitter about how life is more important than property damage and everybody is insured, so how dare anybody care about property damage, the riot is the language of the unheard, blah blah blah.

    Some thoughts on that:

    –There’s no major property damage or disruption to public order that doesn’t ultimately affect life and health. There were dozens of deaths just during the 1992 Los Angeles riots.
    –Arson is a very serious crime, especially in an urban area. Once a fire starts during a riot, there’s no knowing where it is going to go. (I see that a 189-unit affordable housing project that was under construction in Minneapolis burned to the ground.)
    –Anybody in the area with car needs is going to suffer from the absence of the Auto Zone.
    –Best case scenario, the worst-hit neighborhoods will be economically blighted for years. Worst case–decades. Over the last few years, there’s been a lot of talk about “food deserts”–well, this is how you get a food desert.
    –Especially in the context of the pandemic, a lot of affected small businesses will never recover, and even the major chains may choose to take any insurance money and rebuild elsewhere.
    –I also keep hearing that a lot of insurance policies contain loopholes for civil disturbances–so there’s not necessarily going to be a payout.

    That said, maybe it’s time for a national conversation about police unions?

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  8. * The Republic of Georgia fired all of its highway police force — up to and including commanders — and replaced it was a much smaller group that was better led, better trained and better paid. Corruption stopped immediately. Within a year or two, they went from universally reviled to trusted and respected.

    A lot of Americans advised that effort. They should be doing the same at home.

    * One of my grandfathers was in a violent antifa group. Of course back then they called it US Army Artillery.

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      1. Doug said, “One of my grandfathers was in a violent antifa group. Of course back then they called it US Army Artillery.”

        That’s kind of excuse-y, Doug.

        y81 said, “I don’t know of any evidence that the Minneapolis police force is either afflicted by corruption or poorly-paid.”

        Yeah.

        On the other hand, they have had a surprising number of incidents for a city that is supposed to be squeaky clean.

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shooting_of_Justine_Damond

        Back in 2017, one of the first Somali-American officers of the Minneapolis Police Department fatally shot an Australian woman who had called in a report about a possible assault on a woman. When Justine Damond approached their car, Officer Noor shot her to death.

        “In two years as a police officer, Noor had three formal complaints against him, two of which, as of September 2017, were pending resolution. In a separate case from May 2017, he was being sued for allegedly assaulting a woman while on duty.”

        “In September 2018, it was reported that in 2015 two psychiatrists and other training officers had raised concerns about Noor’s fitness for police duty. Two months before the shooting, Noor pointed a gun at the head of a driver he had pulled over for a minor traffic violation.”

        That’s quite the record in less than two years of police service!

        I also recall reading a long expose about how the Minneapolis PD has been pretty useless with regard to rape investigations.

        So, howsabout we break the police unions? There’s something for everybody!

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      2. “I don’t know of any evidence that the Minneapolis police force is either afflicted by corruption or poorly-paid.”

        Instead they are afflicted by white supremacy, and a culture of violence and impunity. It comes to a similar place, though: preying on the people they are supposed to protect and deploying state-sanctioned violence for private ends.

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      3. The officer who shot Justine Damand is probably not a white supremacist. Tou Thao probably isn’t one either.

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      4. A friend from Minneapolis posted this article by a former mayor, who suggests that there is a clear “bad guy” protecting police who abuse their authority:

        “right now, nothing matters more in Minneapolis than reforming the Minneapolis police. Obvious first steps include demilitarizing the training programs, building better tracking systems that intervene early in an officer’s career before the behavior escalates into these tragic incidents, and overturning the “Stanek Amendment” – the legislature shoved down Minneapolis’ throat to prevent the city from requiring officers live in the city….

        More important, after years of being a reporter covering the department; and after years serving as Mayor and getting to know many officers well; I have come to know that we have a majority of officers who let a minority of officers create a dominant us-vs-them culture steeped in racism.

        Central to that is the toxic Federation President Bob Kroll who pushes every hot button, blames every victim, refuses to acknowledge any misbehavior, and plays to the deepest fears of his members. (If this is sounding familiar, it should.) Protesters have called for his resignation. But he is an elected official. And like any politician, you can only remove that person if the police officers who elected him rise up and say enough is enough..

        I also truly believe our greatest hope is Police Chief Medaria Arradondo. I have known Rondo in many ways — as the incredibly effective chief of staff to a police chief, I tried to fire; as the officer who night after night I saw build rapport with residents living in fear; as the officer who sued the department for racial bias; as the precinct commander who built deep respect with both the officers and the community and now, as the chief who made the right call by immediately firing the officers involved in the death of George Floyd. His moral compass has never wavered. His empathy has never faltered. He is a child of our city whose roots and understanding run deep. He is exactly the right person at the right time. Rarely does the world present us with clear-cut choices but in this case, I can bluntly say: Rondo is the good guy, Kroll is the bad guy and I urge every person in the community to stand squarely behind Rondo at this critical time because he absolutely must win.”
        View at Medium.com

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      5. OMG, I just can’t with any skepticism about police and white supremacy, Most definitely yes, the culture of many police departments is based around white supremacy and male supremacy/”toxic masculinity.” These issues are deep-rooted and generational. To become a police officer is to agree to join in this culture, perhaps even forcing you to overcompensate in order to fit in. Cops believe they are brothers. They take idea this *very* seriously in a way that few other professions do.
        I say this as someone who knows and loves police officers, on a personal level. It’s very difficult for me to deal with knowing that people I love have the ability to act like monsters. But never for a second do I doubt that they could and would for their brothers.
        I also know the kids who self-select as future police officers because I teach many of them. OMG, the things they say in class, the difficulties involved in classroom management between them and many other students in the classroom, as I try to make the classroom a safe place for all of them to discuss and work through their ideas and beliefs.
        What is happening now all feels really inevitable if you’ve ever known police officers (omg, and correctional officers, who are worse because they usually weren’t up to being in the police academy, so they feel they have to prove themselves even more).

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      6. I do not like the antifa == US army fighting the Axis unless the antifa takes on a structure of being effectively anti fascist. That is, they cannot be anarchists.

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      7. I personally think “antifa” is a ridiculous bogeyman. I know you’re in the PNW, but we don’t seem to have “antifa” out East at the same level. How is it that I am about as lefty as they come, I teach college, and I have kids who are teen/young adult, and yet I have never come across anyone who calls themselves “antifa.”

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    1. And, no, being Asian does not mean that you are not anti-black, which is the problem here: white supremacy is especially damaging in the police, not just because of their racism against everyone, but because of the racist relationship of white supremacy to the anti-black, pro-slavery American system.

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      1. Using the phrase “white supremacists” to describe anti-black Asians is a very strange choice of words, more likely to confuse than to enlighten (or perhaps reflecting more confusion than enlightenment). And using the phrase to describe a Somali who shoots an Australian woman is even stranger.

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  9. I can only speak for Denver as that is where I live and where I have attended protests this week.
    All marches here in the daytime that I have attended have been peaceful, everyone wearing masks. Social distancing is difficult to achieve it is true.
    I am too old to be out in the middle of things at night, but a number of folks I know have been and even the more jaded ones have been shocked at the aggression of the police. People who were walking in the direction where police were directing them were hit with pepper balls (a weird thing they do here) rubber bullets and tear gas and pepper spray. Police laughed when people said “we’re dispersing!” I was in San Francisco during the demonstrations around Rodney King where the police were roundly criticized for heavy handedness and never saw anything like this.
    Anecdotally a lot of people have reported young white men doing a lot of property damage. Denver has a long history of white supremacy groups; a bar in the same neighborhood as where I live and only a mile from the Capitol was until last year a big hangout for skinheads, neo nazis and the like. Supposedly the new owner got rid of them. I would not be surprised if they were part of this. There is also a frustrating element of “woke” young mostly white mostly males who come to support POC at protests and then start jumping over barriers, provoking police, spray painting etc. I’ve engaged a few on social media; not sure if I had any effect. Some listen if you talk about getting consent from POC first as a lot of them will go on about how they would gladly put their bodies between POC and the police. The issue of consent sometimes gets their attention.
    I think the right question to ask now is how do we use whatever middle class privilege we have to advocate for change around law enforcement? For those of us who have the resources and time, just pushing for body cameras in our local community may be a start. I’m mostly musing right now.

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    1. Marianne said,

      “For those of us who have the resources and time, just pushing for body cameras in our local community may be a start.”

      I think that’s a good idea, but Officer Chauvin was being filmed (and knew he was being filmed) and it didn’t make a lick of difference.

      Of course, he had successfully weathered 18 formal complaints since he started working with the MPD, so he may have felt pretty bullet-proof at that point.

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    2. ” how do we use whatever middle class privilege we have to advocate for change around law enforcement?” — precisely what I am thinking about this morning.

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  10. I think that when we entrust the police with protecting our society that we owe them both a great deal of respect and support and that we should demand very high standards from them. I think unions can be good for the first part of this equation, which is necessary. But, we do also have to enforce high standards and high training and high abilities. Jennifer Doleac tweeted a series of articles on methods of intervention that could increase the standards of the police and I think we have to work hard to help implement those standards and training and see if they help. https://twitter.com/jenniferdoleac/status/1267112848032923648

    I think that’s what we can do (and, though I am not white, I do consider myself part of the middle class privileged).

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  11. Justin Amash (libertarian U.S. Representative) is introducing a bill to end Qualified Immunity for police.

    I don’t know if that works legally (is it really a federal matter?), but that’s another angle. There’s a whole thread from Amash explaining some of the details.

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  12. I have been horrified by the violence/disrespect/escalation by the police I’m seeing on video, from the arrest of the CNN reporters to the ramming of protesters by police cars to the covering of badge numbers with tape to the picture circulating of Cincinnati police lowering an American flag! I hope some of those shares are not true (though some would be hard to fake, though in this day and age, not impossible).

    Also, I do not feel pain at the destruction of Ann Taylor, though I do think it is wrong and would be saddened to see the store disappear.

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  13. Regarding the make-up of the protests, it has occurred to me (as it has to other people online) that a lot of people who should be in jail right now have been released because of COVID-19. Those early-releases are probably represented among the looters we’ve seen. I personally know of a guy in WA who committed arson against a store belonging to my relatives during a burglary and was apparently up for early release. Wonder what he’s up to right now, if he’s out already?

    NYC has also been experimenting recently with revolving door arrests (get arrested–get released without bail–get arrested again–get released without bail–etc.), so that’s been going on, too.

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