Protesters are testing police, and police officers are failing catastrophically

An NYPD vehicle charges into a crowd of protesters on May 30th, 2020. Source:

Dan Broadbent

Seemingly everywhere, police are working hard to prove the protesters are right to protest them.

It's been a wild year this week.

Following Derek Chauvin's execution of George Floyd, major cities around the country have looked absolutely surreal.

While the overwhelming majority of the protests have been peaceful, there has been a substantial amount of violence and destruction from a comparatively small amount of protesters. Many local leaders around the country have said that the violence that has occurred can be, at least in part, traced back to individuals who belong to white supremacist groups. The mayor of Saint Paul went as far as saying that everyone arrested on Friday night was from out of the state, and today in a press conference, the governor of Minnesota said that approximately 20% of those arrested last night were from out of state, some as far away as Arkansas.

Initially, I was surprised and confused by the violence. After all, we'd seen protests that were tense, but none that erupted into burning down random businesses that have absolutely nothing to do with the protest indiscriminately. I trust that there is supporting evidence for these statements (why else would they make these statements?), and trust that it will come out in the days or weeks ahead of us.

I trust the local leaders are telling the truth because I need them to be telling the truth. I need them to be transparent and honest. For my own mental health, I need to know that people are still good, and that the overwhelming majority of people do not condone destruction like we've seen the past few nights. I need to believe that most of the violence we've seen has been instigated by malicious actors who are not there to protest police brutality. I really, really hope I'm not wrong about placing my trust in these leaders, because to believe the alternative - that regular, everyday people are capable of destruction and chaos on a scale we haven't seen before in this country - is terrifying.

I believe that on the whole, people are good, and I need to have believe that people are still good.

And let me also say that law enforcement has always had an impossible job. Their best case scenario is that nothing goes wrong and they get to go home. So a perfect day at work for them is a day where nothing happens. I get it.

But for fuck's sake, when people are protesting you because of decades of police brutality, don't prove them right, you big dumb idiots.

You'd think that police officers would be smarter. You'd think that they would realize that in a large crowd of people, at least a handful of them will be recording video of whatever happens. You'd think they'd realize they should be on their absolute best behavior, as their actions are under the most intense scrutiny we've seen in modern times. You'd think these things, but maybe we're making the incorrect assumption that these officers are thinking in the first place. I guess racism and toxic/fragile masculinity make it easy to replace thinking with hate.

Seemingly everywhere, police are working hard to prove the protesters are right to protest them.

There's this example from New York City, where a NYPD SUV rams into a crowd for absolutely no reason at all.

If they felt threatened, they could have backed up. The driver needs to be fired immediately and charged with the attempted murder of everyone who was in front of their vehicle. It's not even a matter of debate, there is no possible defense. There is absolutely no context in which actions like that are acceptable.

Police in Salt Lake City violently shoved an elderly man who was walking with a cane to the ground.

In Atlanta, police broke windows in someone's car and tazed the occupants - who did not appear to be acting in an aggressive manner whatsoever - on live TV.

It's not just protesters who are being attacked by out-of-control law enforcement officers. Countless journalists have been arrested, detained, and even seriously injured.

In Minneapolis, a news crew from CBS was fired on by police. In the video, it looks like one of them was hit as he doubles over and grunts.

MSNBC's Ali Velshi was fired upon by law enforcement in Minneapolis, too.

In Louisville, police aimed a paintball gun with pepper balls directly at a reporter and fired. I counted at least a dozen shots.

Then there's this story, where police stormed a medical tent and shot at a nurse.

It appears people can't even peacefully surrender to law enforcement, too. This man had his hands up when an officer grabbed the man's mask, pulled it down, then pepper sprayed him.

I could go on, but you get the point. If we want to call these officers "bad apples", it seems like the whole bushel might need to be thrown out. They, very clearly, lack empathy. They don't value other people's lives. And what's just as bad are all the officers who see these things happen and fail to intervene. They are the only ones who have the ability to put an end to this, but they do nothing.

If an officer sees behavior like this from another officer, and fails to intervene, they're just as guilty as the offending officer. Plain and simple.

It would be outstanding if we had an actual leader occupying 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in DC. It would be amazing to have a leader who felt compelled to urge for calm while taking steps to hold violent law enforcement officers accountable for their actions. Hell, it would be amazing if we had a leader who did not actively seek to further divide the country with completely bullshit and wholly unsubstantiated barking about "antifa" being the cause of the riots. Hopefully, we'll only have to wait until January 2021 for that.

Every protest I've seen, even in my hometown of Indianapolis (where 3 people were shot during the protest last night, 2 fatally), police have been the ones escalating the situations. Hell, when you do a Google Scholar search for research into riot control methods, nearly all of the results involve some form of chemical agent or projectile.

In a way, that's kind of the point. Most protesters are there to raise awareness and share their outrage over the completely unnecessary murders of countless innocent people at the hands of law enforcement officers. Some are there to antagonize police, almost as a test of their authority. Nationwide, police departments are failing catastrophically.

Police keep taking the bait.

The entire point of the protests is to illustrate how unhinged many law enforcement officers are, and with George Floyd protests in places like Trafalgar Square in London, England, the protesters have absolutely been successful in demonstrating the violence inherent in our law enforcement system on an international level.

I can't help but wonder what would happen if officers, instead of donning riot gear and pepper spray, used their words. I wonder what would happen if they actually engaged with the protesters in a nonviolent manner. I think it's safe to assume that the majority of protesters don't want to inflict physical harm on law enforcement officers. Instead, they just want their voices to be heard and they want the decades of brutality they've endured to end. There's no reason for them to not listen, and I think the overwhelming majority of protests would go the route of what happened in Flint, Michigan.

The worst case scenario is that the situation erupts into violence and the protesters attack the police officers. Then, it would prove the police officers are right to have the heavy-handed approach they've been using that have had such deleterious effects.

These protests and riots are unlike anything we've ever seen in recent history, and they warrant a much different response from law enforcement than we've seen thus far.


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