2020: The Year We Marched For Black Lives While The Cops Whined
Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin murdered George Floyd on May 25, Memorial Day. Floyd was handcuffed, unarmed, and defenseless, but Chauvin pressed his knee into his throat for nine and a half minutes, ignoring his cries for mercy, until he was dead. Chauvin's accomplices in blue stood and watched.
In March, Louisville, Kentucky, cops burst into Breonna Taylor's home, while she slept, and shot her to death. The police considered this a terrible inconvenience for Taylor and a personal tragedy for themselves because people wouldn't shut up about it.
Cops kill unarmed Black people with disturbing regularity, but the sociopathic brutality of Floyd's death sparked something within the country. It scared the police as much as imaginary poison milk shakes or tampons in their Frappuccinos that obviously aren't tampons. Americans took to the streets in support of Black lives. Even Mitt Romney showed up. Black Lives Matter as a movement grew in popularity.
However, as normal, non-riot-making Americans protested police violence across the country, the police responded with more violence. It was as if law enforcement thought we were the old ladies from the Woody Allen joke: “Boy, the food at this place is really terrible," one complains and the other responds, “Yeah, I know, and such small portions."
We didn't want more generous portions of police violence, but we received it anyway from pouting cops everywhere. You risked a serious beatdown if you exercised your constitutional rights to criticize the police. Suburban mothers were tear-gassed and roughed up in Portland, Oregon. Cops in Boston and New York City ran over protesters in their car (maybe they were jay-walking). San Jose police shot their own bias trainer in the nuts with a riot gun. Minneapolis police arrested CNN's Omar Jimenez for reporting while Black. A police officer aimed a foam bullet gun directly at photojournalist Linda Tirado, better known to you as Wonkette writer Killer Martinis, striking her in the eye and partially blinding her. This was supposedly America.
MSNBC's Ali Velshi was hit in the leg with a rubber bullet, which the shithole president thought was just hilarious. Donald Trump also defended Buffalo police who hospitalized an old man at a protest. Trump thought Roger Stone was treated “unfairly" because he was arrested early in the morning, while still in his pajamas, but the cops didn't even get blood on them or anything. Black folks consider that the white glove treatment. Trump just thinks his friends should remain exempt from the gangland-style law enforcement he finds so entertaining.
There were almost 1,000 instances of police brutality reported during the anti-police brutality protests this summer. The cops didn't seem to get the point. They'd probably show up at a vegan demonstration and hit people with blunt cheeseburgers.
Cops whined a lot about the protests and the bare minimum efforts to even think about holding police responsible for extrajudicial killings and general thuggery. When an Atlanta cop was indicted for shooting a fleeing suspect in the back, there was a sudden outbreak of the “blue flu." Some Minneapolis cops claim they have “PTSD" from the George Floyd protests this summer and demanded taxpayer-funded disability retirement.
Although our next, real president, Joe Biden, spoke movingly about the weight of police violence on the Black community, Attorney General Bill Barr insisted that systemic racism doesn't exist in law enforcement. This is especially laughable during a year where we saw armed white men storming capitol buildings because they didn't want to wear a mask during a pandemic. None of them suffered permanent injuries. Compare this to the Black woman protester an Atlanta cop body-slammed so hard he broke her collarbone.
Trump has denigrated the Black Lives Matter movement, even calling the phrase itself “racist" and a "symbol of hate." Meanwhile, he's compared the cop who shot Jacob Blake in the back, paralyzing him, to golfers who “choke" during a putt (no, really). Even professional terrible person Laura Ingraham thought that was a bit much.
President Klan Robe released the hounds on protesters in Lafayette Park this summer so he could hold up a Bible he's never opened for some Ivanka-directed strongman photo-op. Honorable military personnel denounced Trump's actions, but the New York City police union later endorsed him. He's their kind of guy.
Last week, Trump also pardoned a Maryland police officer who sicced her trained Cujo on an unarmed homeless man. Her conviction in 2001 was considered a “watershed moment" for police reform. This is consistent with Trump's open support for war criminals abroad.
The police will continue to resist constructive change that will save Black lives or even recognize we exist as people. But their enabler in chief is (finally) on his way out. Let's keep up the pressure, on the streets and most importantly at the ballot box.
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Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He writes reviews for the A.V. Club and make believe for Cafe Nordo, an immersive theatre space in Seattle. He's also on the board of the Portland Playhouse theatre. His son describes him as a “play typer guy."