NOTE FROM NORM: No Excuse for Violence
The trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, accused of murdering George Floyd, begins on March 8th.
The world was riveted by the horrifying video of Chauvin, and three other former Minneapolis Police Officers, pinning Floyd down to the pavement, arguing with the worried crowd, mocking Floyd’s pleas for air and ultimately the painful imagery of a man whose life ended on a sidewalk.
The aftermath of Floyd’s death also riveted the world.
We saw the best and the worst of America in the streets of Minneapolis and St. Paul.
On one hand we saw peaceful protests by people angry, saddened, and outraged at what they perceived to be a human injustice. In the crowd of those protestors were men, women and children of all colors, political affiliation, ideology, and ethnicity – a perfect tapestry of America’s melting pot – raising their voices to proclaim this deed must not go unpunished.
On the other hand, we saw far too many who used Floyd’s death as an excuse to commit acts of violence against people and property. Criminals whose added further disgrace to the former police officers whose own actions denied a black man his dignity and caused his death.
Ultimately, brave men and women of law enforcement, and the Minnesota Army National Guard, under the professional leadership of their officers, took control of the streets, created an environment of safety and security in communities to allow residents to reclaim some modicum of calm, and to re-establish peaceful protests the capacity to resume.
The abject failure of Minneapolis leaders to address the violence, coupled with the meek leadership across the river in St. Paul, was an open invitation to commit crimes against people and property.
Only after seeing the carnage in the streets did Governor Walz finally stand up and commit the resources needed to restore calm, peace and safety and security in these communities.
The resulting loss to each community was, and remains, staggering.
Over the past several weeks the people of Minnesota, and the nation, have heard conflicting and confusing messages for what elected leaders in Minneapolis, St. Paul and, for that matter, the Governor, are prepared to do to protect not just the people of the state’s largest city and its capitol city, but residents throughout the state.
We have been assured they will “be ready” this time.
We were assured by the same people that they had everything under control the last time.
We are at a point in time when the Mayor of Minneapolis and St. Paul, as well as the Governor, owe the people of the state a clear understanding of what exactly it means to “be ready.”
An understanding of what level of tolerance there will be for any kind of violence to take place before and during the trial and after a verdict is presumably reached.
We’ve heard plenty of nonsense about hiring social media “influencers” and “violence interrupters” but virtually nothing about a Zero Tolerance for crime in our state regardless of what the outcome is in this case.
The same voices demanding Minneapolis and St. Paul defund their police departments are now claiming that any significant security presence should not be permitted.
Communities across Minnesota, particularly Minneapolis and St. Paul, must first and foremost be safe for the residents who live there. It must be safe and secure for peaceful protestors to exercise their rights to be heard.
But there should be no quarter for any act of violence, big or small, no matter in whose name it is committed, to be countenanced under any circumstances.
The Governor and many of the leaders who failed Minneapolis and St. Paul have insisted that taxpayers throughout Minnesota, regardless of where they live, should have to pay for their failure to confront the violence that tore our two largest cities apart.
Perhaps they can still convince a taxpayer in Hibbing or Mankato or Winona why they should pay for the destruction of communities in which its leaders’ malfeasance was at the core of the tragedy.
Maybe they can ensure residents of Brooklyn Park, Fridley, Plymouth, Arden Hills, and other surrounding suburbs that millions of dollars that should be going to address the challenges they have should be put on the back burner while Minneapolis and St. Paul are rebuilt.
The first step to making the case is to ensure these taxpayers, and millions of others, that what was allowed to happen in those cities less than a year ago will not be allowed to happen again.
That step includes making it abundantly clear now to those who might choose to come to Minneapolis and St. Paul to commit further acts of violence with the Chauvin trail as an excuse that they will be arrested and prosecuted to the full extent of the law.
The country, and the world, will be watching Minnesota in the days and weeks ahead.
They will be watching to see if our elected leaders learned their lesson, as well as if those who took the life of George Floyd will be held to account by a jury of their peers.
Whatever decision is reached, however, will be no excuse for violence.
The first obligation of government is to keep its citizen’s safe. This obligation includes keeping us safe from enemies foreign and domestic.
This includes protecting our citizens inside our nation’s capital, as well as our state’s capitol, and in Minnesota’s case, our largest city, from those who wish to commit acts of violence for any reason, or for no reason at all.