Protesters converged on numerous American cities June 6, the twelfth day of demonstrations and riots sparked by the death of George Floyd at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer. It felt as if Saturday was billed as the climax of the unrest; a grand gesture, of sorts, in which millions would vent their frustration at what happened to Floyd and perhaps many other black men who had met similar fates at the hands of various police departments. Yet, what could have boiled over into running battles between protesters and police – and perhaps that is what some hoped would transpire – passed off with little trouble.
Organizers of the protest in the nation’s capital were hoping for a million marchers. By most accounts, they got perhaps 200,000. Other cities that witnessed large demonstrations included Seattle, Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York, and of course Minneapolis. The list goes on, though.
A Day of Relative Calm
At least until after curfew, which is currently in force in a number of cities and counties around the country, there was remarkably little trouble. The transition from chaos, destruction, and violence to relative calm has been swift. Whether that is a result of charges being brought against the four police officers involved in Floyd’s death or some other dynamic is not certain.
Contributing to the less confrontational stance of the protesters, no doubt, was the far less aggressive posture of law enforcement and security units. Whereas on previous days, large numbers of officers in full riot gear have confronted protesters, Saturday’s event in D.C. as well as in other cities was marked by a far more relaxed police presence.
The Taint of Extremist Politics
As with every upheaval that has followed an officer-involved fatality, though, the outrage and cries for justice have quickly given way to more politically-tainted demands. The call to defund police departments is one such example. Reducing the budgets of law enforcement agencies bears no relation to the real or perceived issues of racism and brutality within those agencies. Rather, it leads to fewer officers on the streets – a condition that will adversely and disproportionately affect minority neighborhoods.
So, these demands that funds meant for police departments be diverted to other programs is more about who would benefit from where the money goes than who would suffer as a result of losing it.
Sadly, Black Lives Matter – one of the principal organization’s behind Saturday’s mass-protests – has either been, once again, unwittingly co-opted by political extremists or it has become a willing conduit for said extremists. So, we have reached a point where many of the people attending these protests have legitimate concerns about racial division and police brutality while the movers and shakers behind the scenes have their minds on other things.
Hopefully, this is a trend, rather than a mere lull in the simmering rage. Perhaps the moment has passed for those extremist groups who had, without a doubt, taken advantage in the early days of the protests to reek as much havoc as they could. Perhaps, far from the public eye, law enforcement agencies, both federal and state, have moved against those groups and neutralized them – if only temporarily. Hopefully, the anger will not return as the investigation and trial of Floyd’s killer drags on, as it inevitably will.
We can be sure of only one thing: That further talk of stay-at-home and social distancing is both pointless and ridiculous, at this stage. So many of those protesting on Saturday were, it can be reasonably assumed, the same people who two weeks ago were telling us we were heartless murderers for wanting to go to the beach.
Read more from Graham J. Noble.