By Tim Cushing
There was a window of opportunity for cops following the George Floyd killing. Floyd, suspected of nothing more than passing a fake $20 bill, was killed by Officer Derek Chauvin of the Minneapolis PD. Chauvin placed his knee on Floyd’s neck until he was dead. This act lasted for nearly nine minutes — and for nearly three minutes after Chauvin checked for a pulse and found nothing. Yet he persisted, and none of the three cops around him stopped him.
Chauvin has been criminally charged and is under arrest. We’ll see where that takes us. But the opportunity was there for the rest of the nation’s cops to separate themselves from this “bad apple.” Cop defenders ignore what bad apples do to barrels, but we won’t. Chauvin is a symptom. He is not the disease.
As protests broke out around the nation, law enforcement agencies responded. While a small number attempted to find middle ground with aggrieved citizens, most acted as though they were a law unto themselves in these troubled times.
One site got it completely right — a site that so often offers up hot takes that it is the source of its own meme. Slate, of all places, nailed this call:
Police Erupt in Violence Nationwide
And they did. They shot canisters onto the porches of people not violating curfew declarations. They shot protesters in the face with rubber bullets and tear gas canisters. And they treated the press like every authoritarian nation treats the press: as enemy combatants.
Also in today’s criminal justice news, police in Louisville KY – who just watched police in Minneapolis MN arrest a CNN reporter live on-air – say “hold my whiskey” and deliberately shoot a reporter and her cameraman
— T. Greg Doucette (@greg_doucette) May 30, 2020
Photos taken by @PLBarghouty show HuffPost senior reporter Chris Mathias (@letsgomathias), with press badge clearly visible, being taken into custody by the NYPD. Chris was on assignment for HuffPost covering the protests in Brooklyn. pic.twitter.com/EWcWNoFjMW
— HuffPost (@HuffPost) May 31, 2020
“You are part of the problem, if not the entire problem.” – MPD officer
Minneapolis Police called our journalist the “entire problem” & threatened he “would get baked” as he filmed them at 31st & Blaisdell after curfew a block away from #GeorgeFloydProtests at the 5th Precinct. pic.twitter.com/K25MIapPcf
— Unicorn Riot (@UR_Ninja) May 31, 2020
Last thing I saw before I got sprayed. I was even holding up “media” badge pic.twitter.com/XGNN32dl1v
— JC Reindl (@jcreindl) May 31, 2020
I just got hit by a rubber bullet near the bottom of my throat. I had just interviewed a man with my phone at 3rd and Pine and a police officer aimed and shot me in the throat, I saw the bullet bounce onto the street @LAist @kpcc OK, that’s one way to stop me, for a while pic.twitter.com/9C2u5KmscG
— Adolfo Guzman-Lopez (@AGuzmanLopez) June 1, 2020
This should come as no surprise. When the shit goes down, no rights will be respected. The Fourth tends to go first, but the First is often right behind it.
First, we had to deal with the coronavirus and government grabs for power. And this is where we are now: trying to limit a rational response to hundreds of years of racism, manifested as Officer Chauvin’s decision to place his knee on the neck of a black man until long after the man was dead.
The streets are filled with cameras. Cops control most of them. But they can’t control journalists. So, they seek to intimidate them by making it clear their presence isn’t welcomed. The current situation may heighten the response but it has been this way for years. Cops have made it clear — and they’ve been backed by the Commander-in-Chief — the press is the enemy. Journalists record things and those recordings usually make their way to many people — far more than the average internet rando could hope to rope in. If you can’t control the narrative, you can always attempt to control the journalists.
When chaos is on the menu, the cops can still try to maintain control of the reporting. And most of their sins will be forgiven because the situation was unforeseeable. But when it’s happening, we can see it. We can see what they do and how they react. And, because they react badly, every unblinking eye must be closed. The power must remain centralized, and if that means taking a few journalists out, so be it.