Daily Reformer: Caught on tape

Drummers and dancers were among those at the George Floyd memorial. Photo by Macklin Caruso/Minnesota Reformer.

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My personal fear last week was that the just and necessary case for systemic criminal justice reform in the wake of George Floyd’s killing was being overshadowed by the tomfoolery of looting, the devastation of arson and subsequent distracting debate about who was ultimately responsible. (22 federal prosecutions thus far, not one mentions Antifa, but I digress.)  

Another lost opportunity, America’s original sin still unredeemed.

But President Donald Trump and legions of undisciplined police following his lead have come to the rescue — a term I use with grim, knowing irony — with acts of political self-sabotage. 

Trump’s despicable stunt at St. John’s — what one Catholic priest called “revolting” — has properly disgusted Americans. And a series of vicious acts of police officers on peaceful protestors has been caught on tape, spoiling decades of goodwill that police had won, albeit with white America only. 

A Buffalo, N.Y., senior citizen remains hospitalized after he was shoved to the ground by police and hit his head. You can see in the video linked above that with blood coming out of his ear, police step over him like he’s a piece of garbage. 

Just as in the George Floyd case, police lied about the incident, claiming he “tripped,” until the lie was exposed. 

Check out this brilliant maneuver by Media Matters, taking a Tucker Carlson monologue about chaos and disorder in America and laying over it a video of some of the police violence in the past week. 

As former Minnesota AP reporter Kyle Potter noted, it’s not that this is happening more than it used to — though we can’t rule out that the possibility that standards of police discipline have eroded — it’s just that now it’s on tape.  

IMHO most police are good and decent people who want to serve their communities. My late grandfather was a police officer. 

Still and all, here’s a lengthy thread of incidents around the country during the past week. If this is how they’re acting toward largely peaceful protestors, when they know people are watching, what’s going on behind closed doors?

And as someone else pointed out (can’t remember who, so apologies), imagine if we had seriously bad airline pilots, like 1 or 2 or 3% of them, prone to constant mistakes, and just wrote it off as a few “bad apples” and told everyone to move on. 

(Update: Turns out it was Chris Rock.)

We would never accept that. Indeed, we have next to zero commercial airline disasters in this country because we would never accept “a few bad apples.” 

On the question of Trump calling up the military to quell the protests, Andrew Bacevich, a retired Army colonel, has a blistering piece in The Nation that really tears into Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs. Milley paraded around Washington earlier this week in ugly defiance of the longstanding tradition that the American military stays out of domestic affairs.

“Outfitted in battle dress, the rotund general accompanied the equally rotund commander in chief on Trump’s infamous Bible-toting photo op in front of St. John’s Episcopal Church across from the White House. By participating in this blasphemous stunt, Milley not only disgraced his XL-sized uniform but also crossed an important line: Faced with the choice of adhering to professional standards or of publicly joining the bulging ranks of presidential lackeys, he chose the latter.” 

Retired Gen. Martin Dempsey has joined retired Gen./SecDef James Mattis condemning Trump’s attempt to garrison the military for his own political ends.

A White House spokesman used the rather unfortunate phrase, “All options are on the table” to describe potential use of military force to stop civil unrest and demonstrations. This is usually a phrase reserved for our foreign enemies.  

Generally speaking, National Guard troops around the country have shown far more discipline and restraint with demonstrators than police, but now Trump wants to put American soldiers in an impossible position of either following orders or upholding the Constitution. 

It’s despicable, but entirely predictable if you’ve been following this presidency closely. 

In the Reformer today, Max Nesterak has your dispatch on the memorial for George Floyd, which was a remembrance of his life and an effort to create meaningful change. 

Our guest op-ed is by Jeff Kolnick of Southwest Minnesota State, who writes that the logic of efficiency in our nursing homes and meatpacking plants has contributed to the massive public health crisis of COVID-19. 

(Speaking of: Public health authorities have lost a lot of credibility by looking the other way as millions have joined public protests, many without masks. In their defense, the protests have been outside, which seems to significantly reduce risk of infection. More from Politico.) 

Good news: County attorneys call for all police-involved shootings to be prosecuted (or not) by the attorney general. Important reform if it happens. Must be approved by the Legislature. (Strib.)

And at the city, via Liz Navratil in the Strib

Representatives for the Minnesota Department of Human Rights and city elected officials were working Thursday to negotiate a stipulated temporary restraining order that will mandate some immediate changes and also set a timeline for the state’s investigation into whether the Minneapolis Police Department engaged in racial discrimination over the past 10 years.

Today is national jobs day and the numbers are very confusing: We continue to lose jobs, but unemployment is unexpectedly down. (AP.) We’ll try to sort it out for you next week. 

The special legislative session is in a week. 

Derek Chauvin’s first court appearance is Monday. (I was mistaken about the day earlier this week.)

A hearty welcome to all the new readers who have signed up during the past week. You will not always agree with me (my politics can be idiosyncratic.) You will not always like me. (I’m not for everyone.) But I hope you find Daily Reformer worth your time. 

And a YUGE thanks to you for your support, notes of encouragement, reporting tips, constructive criticism and donations during this past week. The tiny Reformer staff and our squad of contributors is feeling very grateful that we get to serve you by documenting important events. 

Sorry, not ready to return to Friday dance gifs yet. Maybe next week. 

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Be well. JPC