A look at the places where law enforcement has shown solidarity with protesters
Tuesday, June 09, 2020
George Floyd’s death has shaken the nation. Protests sparked by the video of his killing have erupted in violence and looting in some places. That has, in turn, led to news of how law enforcement organizations are dealing with the protesters.
Social media is filled with graphic images and video of officers using tear gas, rubber bullets, and batons to quell crowds. Some places have had to enforce strict curfews as well.
But that’s not the whole story. Some law enforcement organizations around the country have joined in with the protesters in solidarity, expressing their stance against racism and police brutality.
The Genesee County, Michigan, Sheriff’s Department; Camden, New Jersey, officers; Santa Cruz, California, police chief; some Kansas City officers and some Hamilton County, Ohio, police officers joined in and/or took a knee with protesters to call for the end of police brutality.
Additionally, officers in Fargo, North Dakota, and Ferguson, Missouri, participated in peaceful rallies and ensured peaceful protests. Atlanta Police Chief Erika Shields told protesters that she conferred with officers in her department to decide how not to use force to defuse angry crowds. She also said that demonstrators have a right to be scared and upset, but she is committed to managing the situation peacefully.
To understand the violence and support, we first need to understand centuries of systemic racism in our country. There’s also the fact that more people die from police-in-custody deaths here in America than other developed nations. We have had many instances of racism and police brutality, but George Floyd’s death appears to have marked a new era.
Perhaps it’s the coronavirus outbreak, quarantine, and mass unemployment that broke the bounds of patience. Or maybe America couldn’t keep quiet in the face of continuous injustice.
But some law enforcement professionals have been quiet for a long time, too. They have maintained the honor among officers and looked away. They can no longer do so. Many police departments have made it a mission to ensure that rallies are peaceful and nonviolent.
One instance was a peaceful march through downtown San Diego calling out for police reform and racial justice. Most demonstrators listened to speeches and heeded the advice of organizers to observe social distancing and nonviolence.
President Trump called out to state governors to crack down on the protesters using the U.S. military. Most of them rebuffed the suggestion and instead chose to try and bring about situations where police and protesters generally have demonstrated mutual respect. This kind of solidarity may not be in the rulebook, but these organizations have done an excellent job of working together with the people.
Baltimore, often known as the hotbed of crime and police brutality, was a shining instance of peaceful protests. Demonstrators and law enforcement officers have seen mostly nonviolent demonstrations following the death of George Floyd. Republican Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan said that they have learned a lot from the dark times in 2015 and how to handle these situations better.
Hopefully, other departments across America will do the same, and we may never have to face such a time again.
It will take time for communities to trust and believe in their police officers completely. Decades of systemic racism and its effect on people will take years to abate. It is especially hard for black Americans to feel safe and protected when they see a law enforcement officer.
Perhaps, though, officers standing in solidarity with the protesters will mark a new chapter. They will hopefully use these demonstrations as a lesson for peacekeeping and connecting with the community. This, along with stricter oversight committees to review misconduct and use of force procedures, among other policies, is sorely needed. These may be the only ways to create faith and trust in law enforcement institutions.
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