“We have seen an abscess arise in Minnesota   A black man’s life was extinguished  

          with abandon- no recognition of suffocation without regard. 

Now, the underlying systemic infection rages throughout the body of the country.

          No one identifies the pathogens that destroy the essence of democracy:

Flagrant racism, perpetual poverty, no regard for migrant suppression-

          All fester disease without alleviation.

When do we acknowledge that the poor person’s voice is drowned out

          by an economy that favors the rich and the status quo?

When we refuse to recognize oppression and lack of

          oxygen for the suffering, we will be extinguished by

overwhelming sepsis of the whole body.”

 

(Poem by Nancy Penaskovic)

 

Our hearts were heavy with sorrow by the images on TV of the recent police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. 

Mr. Floyd committed a slight offense, did not resist arrest, and there was no need to put him face down on the ground while kneeling on his neck, since he had already been put in handcuffs. And why did the police not obey his desperate pleas, “I can’t breathe?” This entire event is more than tragic because such actions were completely unnecessary. I also blame other policemen who should have told those kneeling on Mr. Floyd to stop immediately! Unfortunately, the action of these cops tarred the image of the police worldwide when the overwhelming members of the police do yeomen’s work in keeping our nation safe, and in the process putting their lives on the line on a daily basis.  

No wonder there were large highly-coordinated demonstrations throughout the country to honor the memory of Mr. Floyd. The protesters were a varied group. Some were there to hold a peaceful demonstration as was the case in Auburn. Nationwide, white protesters joined blacks, showing by their actions that they had their fill of individual and institutional racism. 

It seemed that some participants in the marches were anarchists intent on creating chaos. Extremist organizations like Antifa attacked pharmacies, banks, and grocery stores like Aldi, Walmart, and Target. Such individuals set fire to over 170 structures in Minneapolis alone, looting businesses, setting police cars and precinct stations on fire, throwing Molotov cocktails on buildings, throwing rocks at police, and baiting them to use force. How does this behavior square with the message of the Hebrew Scriptures, the New Testament, the Qur’an, or the Analects of Confucius, who spoke of the Silver Rule, “Do not do to others, what you would not want to be done to you?”

There were also white supremacist groups posing on Twitter as Antifa members who encouraged blacks to engage in violent actions like setting on fire precinct stations and stores and looting businesses, according to MSNBC News on June 2, 2020. Some protesters were paid to demonstrate and came from neighboring states by bus. They handed out bricks to protesters to encourage them to throw at the police, thus setting up blacks to be criminalized by the police. It seems that Antifa’s role was to bring about a race war between white and blacks in order to destabilize the U.S. These provocateurs desecrated the memory of George Floyd, who was a man of peace (See Christina Lin, “Hard-core agents provocateurs infiltrate US protests,” Asia Times, June 2, 2020).   

It saddened me to see set on fire in Washington, D.C. the historic Episcopal Church. Why would anyone do that? And why was an Afro-American police officer killed and other officers hit by bricks and suffer concussions? I also question why President Trump, after his news conference on June 1, saw the need to visit St. John’s Church. In the process, 10 federal agencies had to disperse the crowd so that Mr. Trump could do a photo op to please his supporters. Several ministers criticized him for doing this, since the law enforcement forces disrupted a peaceful demonstration, pushed several marchers to the ground, while others were hit by plastic bullets, and had tear gas thrown at them. Don’t these tactics encourage an “us” (police) against “them” (protesters) mentality? Is this the best way to unite a fractious and divided nation? Aren’t we better than this as a nation?

I haven’t seen this in the news but part of the crowds’ energy came from being pent up inside their homes or apartments for 10 weeks with nothing to do. We have 40 million people in the U.S. who filed for unemployment compensation. Not even decent jobs are open for educated college graduates, much less the poor, the illiterate, and immigrants who can’t find work, no matter how hard they try. 

In a future article, I will talk about a larger problem, namely, the wide gap that exists worldwide between the rich and the middle class/poor that puts these recent demonstrations in a larger context. 

Richard Penaskovic is an Emeritus Professor at Auburn University. His writings have appeared in the Birmingham News, Columbus- Ledger Enquirer, Montgomery Advertiser and online by Informed Comment and Politurco.

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