Days after police officers were fought with, run over, and nearly firebombed in New York City, the NY Times has published an editorial blaming the police for failing to protect protesters. The Times briefly acknowledges the looting and violence but quickly moves on:
Some protesters crossed the line into violence. Some people took advantage of the chaos to loot. But all too often, facing peaceful demonstrations against police violence, the police responded with more violence — against protesters, journalists and bystanders.
The Times shrugs off violence against the police, which has been pervasive, as if it were a party foul. The hundreds of people seen looting in New York City and other cities this week also gets minimized as if it were background noise.
In many places, the country is experiencing a communal breakdown so complete that mayors have thrown up their hands and ordered curfews or called in the National Guard. Unable to maintain urban life, they have tried to suspend it, just as they had done in response to the spread of the coronavirus.
It’s really striking how curfews to prevent riots are suddenly considered a sign of abject failure, an inability to maintain urban life. But just a few weeks ago, anyone violating stay-at-home orders was considered to be guilty of murdering granny. The Times editorial board does devote one paragraph to sympathy for the impossible job police are being asked to do.
The chaos unleashed by the death of Mr. Floyd defies simple prescriptions; it is a result of too many underlying conditions. Authorities are facing a stern test: It can be all but impossible to police the boundaries of legitimate protest, particularly on the ground. And it must be painful for many police officers who put their lives on the line to hear themselves criticized by their fellow citizens.
Again, it’s probably more painful for police in NYC to see police officers run down in the street as they tried to stop the chaos only to be denounced as abject failures by the Governor and berated by the NY Times as too violent.
Just a few weeks ago, the police demonstrated remarkable forbearance as heavily armed groups turned out in several state capitals to oppose coronavirus-related public heath measures. Now the police are demonstrating an equally remarkable intolerance to protests against their own behavior…
They have behaved as if determined to prevent peaceful protest by introducing violence.
What the NY Times does not mention is that the re-opening protesters did not destroy police cars or set buildings on fire. They did not throw bricks and frozen water bottles at the police. They did not overrun and vandalize police precincts before setting them on fire. As I pointed out here when Chris Hayes made this same argument, the reason police initially used tear gas in Minneapolis is that “peaceful protesters” were breaking into police cars which contained loaded weapons. Here’s the video:
RAW VIDEO: Protesters inside Minneapolis Police's 3rd Precinct parking lot smashing squad cars, before officers show up and fire flash grenades inside to get them to disperse. WARNING: This video contains violence and strong language. READ MORE: https://t.co/HZTamsXTCN pic.twitter.com/Cktz07ftSg
— WCCO – CBS Minnesota (@WCCO) May 27, 2020
Why didn’t the NY Times mention any of the destruction and arson prompting the police response? There’s not one mention of lawyers who were trying to hand out Molotov cocktails or the woman who actually threw one at a car full of cops. Attempted murder of police doesn’t help the narrative.
In some of the most troubling attacks, police officers have singled out those who spoke up, wading into crowds of protesters and silencing the loudest voices.
In Charleston, S.C., a black man dropped to one knee and told the police, “All of you are my family.” The police arrested him.
The man’s speech was nice but he was part of a crowd that had been ordered to disperse. He was arrested without any violence.
In scores of incidents across the country, police officers also have deliberately attacked journalists reporting on the protests. Minneapolis police arrested a CNN crew on live television. Video captured Louisville police firing pepper bullets at a local TV crew. The Manhattan district attorney’s office is investigating the alleged assault of a Wall Street Journal reporter by the police. Protesters, for their part, have also targeted reporters, including a Fox News crew outside the White House.
Police were wrong in the first two arrests and apologized.
The governor of Minnesota, Tim Walz, apologized to the CNN reporters arrested in Minneapolis, and then took a moment to dilate on the importance of a free press.
“The protection and security and safety of the journalists covering this is a top priority, not because it is a nice thing to do, because it is a key component of how we fix this,” Mr. Walz said. “Sunshine, disinfectant and seeing what’s happening has to be done.”
Fair enough. I don’t want to see journalists intentionally targeted by police. But blaming police for introducing violence when there is clearly a lot of violence connected with the protests (including an officer shot in the head in Las Vegas who is now on life support) seems like a pretty one-sided presentation of the facts.