The Unjust and the Unjustifiable

Flames rise from a Los Angeles Police Department kiosk in The Grove shopping center during a violent protest over the death of George Floyd, Saturday, May 30, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

The murder of an innocent man can never be ignored. Nor can a civilized society look the other way on acts of anarchy and arson.

The anguish and fury felt by many Americans upon learning of the brutal and unjust death of 46-year-old George Floyd is not only understandable but commendable. Yet the actions of the rioters who have exploited this senseless murder to commit and incite acts of violence against innocent people are indefensible. These rioters are dishonoring the memory of Mr. Floyd and are emulating the very conduct they are supposedly protesting against.

Floyd — the father of two daughters, the younger only six years old — was arrested last Monday in Minneapolis, Minnesota, after an employee at a grocery store accused him of trying to pass a counterfeit $20 bill. The African American was lying facedown on the ground with his hands cuffed behind his back. According to a cell phone video taken by a bystander, he did not seem to be resisting as a white police officer ignored Floyd’s desperate pleas that he couldn’t breathe and used a knee restraint on his neck that culminated in his death.

The African American community has every right, even an obligation, to demand answers as to how this was allowed to happen in America in 2020. The fact that three other officers at the scene actively assisted in this horrific crime — one of them held Floyd’s back, another his legs, and a third prevented onlookers from intervening — indicates that this was a broader issue than a single rogue cop. While all four officers have been fired, only one of them has thus far been charged. This is unacceptable. All those involved in any sort of police brutality must be brought to justice.

At the same time, this should not be taken to mean open season on police officers nationwide. It is vital for all to recognize that the vast majority of police officers treat all citizens, including suspects in custody, in a professional and just manner. Much as it is unfair to blame all members of any group for the actions of a minority of their members, it is unacceptable to hold all police officers responsible for what happened in Minneapolis.

No matter how reprehensible the crime being protested may be, it does not justify assaults on innocent civilians and the wanton destruction of property. Among the rampaging rioters who set fire to stores and cars were whites, and among their many victims were a significant number of African Americans. As is invariably the case in a breakdown of law and order, anti-Semitic elements took the opportunity to pursue their own hate-filled agenda and, in some areas, Jewish-owned shops and shuls were specifically targeted.

In a particularly symbolic gesture, in Los Angeles, a statue of Raoul Wallenberg, the gentile who heroically risked his life to save tens thousands of Jews from the hands of the Nazis, was defaced. This is not the work of demonstrators seeking justice, but thugs using a terrible tragedy as an excuse to commit crimes of their own.

Every American — of every race and religion — is entitled to be able to make a purchase at a grocery without fear that it will end in a deadly confrontation with police. And every police officer, store owner and civilian is entitled to be protected from violent marauders.

Justice must be colorblind, and the rule of law, meted out fairly but firmly, must reign throughout the land.