May 31, 2020
Zero tolerance for violence in the fight for police reform
The outrage over George Floyd’s killing in Minneapolis under the knee of a white police officer is justified. Nationwide demands to end police abuse are legitimate. The fury of black Americans who are tired of generations of injustice is real.
But the rioting and vandalism that overshadowed peaceful protests the past several days represent something vile and shameful. They are counterproductive, criminal actions that cause more grief and setbacks.
Did Chicago look more committed to equality and justice on Sunday morning with broken glass in the streets and pointless graffiti scrawled across dozens of buildings? No. Chicago — the city and its people — were battered. Same for Minneapolis, New York, Seattle, Dallas and other cities where peaceful demonstrations blurred into ugly outbursts.
Some try to argue that violence becomes necessary to compel real change when political pressure and street marches aren’t effective. Again, no. Police officers were pelted with bottles and debris in Chicago. They were punched, and at least one was dragged down a street. Protesters were injured, too, with flying objects and during angry outbursts.
The toppling and burning of vehicles in the Loop on Saturday, the smashing of windows of countless stores and homes, and the looting of merchandise were acts of lawlessness and cowardice that should not be tolerated.
Chicago police Superintendent David Brown said that by Sunday morning, more than 200 arrests were made. Law enforcement should use every tool, including hundreds of posts on social media, to identify and prosecute lawbreakers who distract from the trust-building actions that need to take place. Mayhem does not beget political progress. Mayhem begets more chaos that impedes progress.
Brown saw the criminal agitators for what they are: hypocrites. “People are destroying property, meting out violence in the memory of a man who was unjustly killed, murdered by police officers,” Brown said Saturday night as Mayor Lori Lightfoot imposed overnight curfews.
On Sunday came more necessary moves to intensify the police response. In addition to a 9 p.m.-to-6 a.m. curfew until further notice, Lightfoot shut down the Loop and asked Gov. J.B. Pritzker to send a contingent of the National Guard to Chicago to help ensure no rioting. While acknowledging Floyd’s death “sickened” her, Lightfoot said she was “hurt and angry at those who decided to try to hijack this moment ... to loot and to destroy. You should be ashamed of yourselves. What you have done is to dishonor yourself, your family and our city.”
In the end, violence sidetracks. Peaceful marches and rallies unite communities and should continue. They allow for voices to be heard, which is part of what will be required to confront racism and soften the broken relationship between minority Americans and law enforcement.
In Minneapolis, peaceful black protester Patrick Smith told CNN in an impassioned street interview that his mistrust of police is consuming and exhausting. “We do not want to go through this anymore,” Smith said. He wants to feel safe in white neighborhoods. If a police officer is driving behind him, he doesn’t want to have to clench and be tense. “I want to just be free and not have to think about every step I take. Because at the end of the day, being born black is a crime to them.”
Mistrust of police is universally understood by black Americans, even as police forces have grown more diverse. Chicago has tried to attract more minority officers; the force is about one-fifth black. More can and should be done to diversify law enforcement ranks.
For Chicago, part of the tragedy of a white Minneapolis police officer using his knee to choke the life out of George Floyd, a black man, was its familiarity. Floyd became a Minneapolis version of Laquan McDonald, the black teen shot 16 times by a white officer. That officer, Jason Van Dyke, was convicted of second-degree murder.
Chicago is not alone. In cities across the U.S., allegations of police misconduct, abuse of authority and mistrust have sparked a sometimes reckless backlash against good and compassionate officers who are dedicated to protecting the public. Frustration is mounting on all sides. And in an increasingly polarized nation, extremist groups are stepping in to take advantage of the tension.
The 2014 shooting of McDonald, who was seen on video walking away from Van Dyke, unleashed anger but also led the city to a reckoning with its history of police abuses. CPD today operates under a federal consent decree designed to lock in reforms to training, supervision and accountability. The city elected a black mayor, Lightfoot, who is an expert in police accountability, and helped reshape a history of cover-up among officers. That is part of Chicago’s story too.
This city, pressed not by violent street protests but political momentum, could be positioned to become a national example of how a police department examines its failures and improves. The possibilities for transformation are real, but so are the obstacles. City Hall has pledged to reform CPD numerous times. Chicago’s plague of gun violence blots out other priorities and stirs cynicism. And police culture is resistant to change.
Yet this is a city that — even before George Floyd — understood what was at stake and positioned itself to make real strides toward becoming a better, safer, fairer place for all its residents of all backgrounds.
Nothing is easy about achieving social progress. Peaceful protests are encouraged and should be protected. Let marches continue as one step forward.
To the rest, to those who would destroy instead of build, we’ll repeat the mantra of Atlanta’s mayor, Keisha Lance Bottoms, who pleaded over the weekend to rioters in her city: Go home. Go. home.
June 1, 2020
The (Champaign) News-Gazette
Cannot tolerate the violence
Chaos and disorder are a threat to everyone, including those sowing chaos and disorder.
It’s impossible to reason with members of a mob, particularly one bent on thievery and destruction.
Fortunately, they constitute a relatively small part of our society. So it’s incumbent upon the rest of us to keep in perspective what happened in Minneapolis last week and what’s being done about what happened. That doesn’t mean to accept it without reservation, but to keep understandable anger in check.
From all appearances, the death of George Floyd was an entirely avoidable event, the result of an abuse of police authority. It revived longstanding concerns about the abuse of minority citizens at the hands of police.
But if the image of a black man pleading for assistance from an unresponsive white police officer revived old wounds, the reaction by city officials in Minneapolis was starkly different from the indifference once displayed by officials responsible for maintaining public safety.
The officer in question was immediately fired and was later charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. The other officers at the scene were dismissed and are expected to be charged.
Their cases will be handled as they should be — in courts of law.
Aside from holding peaceful protests, there’s no reason to — and certainly no justification for — the rampant criminality that has occurred throughout the country, including in Champaign County.
With any luck, the looting that took place Sunday at the mall will be a one-time event.
Protesters gathered Monday afternoon at the county courthouse in Urbana, marching, chanting and briefly blocking traffic, but engaging in no inappropriate conduct.
That was as it should be.
Those who use participation in legitimate protests as a pretext for engaging in vandalism and thievery only undermine the credibility of those individuals who are expressing legitimate complaints about what occurred in Minneapolis.
How could anyone think that breaking into one of the many businesses at and near the mall in Champaign advances a social cause?
Instead, it raises serious doubts as to the sincerity of all those who are present when this kind of illegal activity occurs. Not everyone present at incidents like this may participate in the mayhem, but they are unavoidably linked to the actions of others.
That doesn’t even account for the danger to public safety that exists when people are running amok or the damage done to the businesses, their owners and employees.
Obviously, authorities must use all their resources to discourage this kind of criminality and, if problems break out, put an end to them.
Society simply cannot function when a small portion of the population decides that it’s entitled to take what it wants and destroy what it will.
Where will circumstances end if people exercise no restraint on their conduct by taking no responsibility for it?
No one should want to find out because it would be awful for everyone.
May 28, 2020
(Peoria) Journal Star
Support the locals as businesses begin to open
It’s with much anticipation, excitement and a little bit of dread that businesses throughout Illinois will start reopening Friday.
Just because they can open, doesn’t mean they will.
It’s easy to shut down, but it’s more difficult to open the doors again, especially when there will be restrictions on the number of customers that will be allowed into an establishment and that customers and staff will have to abide by certain safety precautions.
Making those adjustments will not be cheap and business owners will have to weigh whether the extra costs associated with reopening will be worth it. Some will decide that it’s too soon to reopen with COVID-19 still a threat and will take a cautious approach to protect customers and staff. There are plenty of challenges ahead.
A couple of times a year we write editorials encouraging people to shop at local small businesses whether it be a retailer, a hardware store or a restaurant. This time is no different.
If you are comfortable, if you feel safe, visit a business that has been closed since March and be as generous as you can when you order, buy and tip. You may not be able to because the shutdown affected your paycheck as well, but support a local business if you can.
If the stimulus check you received is extra money for you, consider treating yourself and supporting your community. And don’t forget nonprofits when you do so.
Just about every business was hurt by the shutdown that has been in place since mid-March, but small businesses especially are vulnerable.
A 2016 study by JP Morgan Chase Institute showed that half of small business held a cash buffer of 27 days of their typical spending. They’ve been closed more than twice that long with expenses such as utilities and rent going out and no money coming in.
Other studies show that the smaller the business, the bigger the risk of going out-of-business. Big business fail, too, but small businesses are the lifeblood of communities. We need them and they need us.
Small businesses are big contributors to our communities. Surveys consistently show that for every dollar you spend at a local, independent business, more of that money stays in your community than if you spent that buck with a national business. About 48% of what you spend at a local business is recirculated into the community. A chain store recirculates less than 14%.
It’s even more for local restaurants — 65% to 30%. Unfortunately, it will be awhile before local restaurants will be going full speed. Pickup and carryout remain options, but there will be no dining in. Restaurants with outdoor seating can start serving customers. The weather has been pleasant for the most part so outside seating might be preferred even if inside seating were available.
Economics aside, shopping at a local small business provides a better customer experience. You probably know the person behind the counter and you may even know the owner. That should make you feel safer than dealing with strangers.
Small businesses give a community character. You can find chain stores in every city in the nation, but that locally owned store is something special in the community in which you live.
Our communities may never be the same after what we’ve collectively experienced the last few months, but we can get start getting on with our lives as best we can.
Most people in the region have been respectful, wearing masks, gloves and dutifully washing their hands until their fingers are pruney. That has helped keep the number of cases in our county relatively low.
Keep it up and if you do want to shop or dine, remember the locals.