Is rioting justified in the Floyd case?


Fact Box

  • George Floyd, a 46-year-old black man, died after pleading for help as a police officer used his knee on Floyd's neck to pin him -- unarmed and handcuffed -- to the ground [1].
  • During the third night of protests over Mr Floyd's death, a police station was set alight. A number of buildings have been burned, looted and vandalised, prompting the activation of the state's National Guard troops [2].
  • The fired Minneapolis police officer has been arrested and charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter [3].
  • Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey announced at a press conference that all four officers involved had been fired [4].
  • Rapper Lil Wayne has come out on this controversy, saying, “we have to get so specific and what I mean by that, we have to stop viewing [these situations] from such a broad view, meaning we have to stop placing the blame on the whole force and the whole everybody of a certain race or everybody with a badge” [5]. 
  • In 2019, black people were 24% of those killed despite being only 13% of the population [6].
  • 99% of killings by police from 2013-2019 have not resulted in officers being charged with a crime [7].

Mandy (No)

Rioting--including looting and burning--is not a justified response to George Floyd's death. It is inarguable that the police behaved abhorrently. Everyone, from Trump to Minneapolis' Mayor, agrees that the police acted incorrectly; all four officers were fired [1]. The offending officer has been charged with murder [2]. Therefore, in this case, the rioting was not necessary or justified.  

Looting businesses mostly owned and staffed by blacks and minorities only hurts the community [3]. Target (labeled an essential business during this time) was providing necessary jobs for already struggling people. Those people will be without work until the store is rebuilt, if it even happens at all. When riots exploded in 1960s Detroit, businesses ended up leaving the city, taking jobs and tax income away with them [4]. Detroit, Ferguson, and Baltimore may not recover for decades, both financially and emotionally, from their respective rioting because community trust was compromised, leaving business owners frightened and potential new employers unconvinced to set-up shop [5].  

Yes, there may be policing and municipal reform in response to rioting, but you cannot argue that it would not have happened the same with peaceful protest and community pressure. Researchers have found that nonviolent campaigns are more successful than armed ones [6]. The outcome of reform is achievable without destroying the local economy for many years following, especially when everyone agrees that the police officer was in the wrong. All the rioters have done is make a recovery harder on their fellow citizens, including their neighbors, who poured their life savings into franchises that were destroyed. The only people that win are the demagogues and virtue-signalers.

Tyler (No)

The United States continuously neglects and oppresses its black citizens without consequence. Martin Luther King once said, 'A riot is the language of the unheard [1].' After centuries of being silenced by this country's judicial system, the recent backlash from protesters in Minnesota should be expected.  

Previous displays of peaceful protest toward racial injustice have been proven ineffective in recent years. In 2016, to protest police brutality against minorities, NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick began to take a knee during the U.S national anthem played before his games [2]. President Trump responded by calling for NFL owners to fire any player taking a knee, and referred to those exercising their right to protest as 'sons of bitches [3].' Also, some past protests that began with peaceful intentions have escalated to violence after instigation from law enforcement [4]. In 2017, the St. Louis Police Department was under investigation from the FBI after a video captured several officers pepper-spraying hand-cuffed, defenseless protesters in the face [5].

Instances like the Boston Tea Party prove how rioting can lead to a necessary revolution in our country. The midnight raid of Boston Harbor showed Great Britain that the Americans were willing to act radically in their quest for freedom [6]. Protests like the 1965 Watts riots in California and the 1964 Rochester riots led to the drafting of the 1968 Kerner Commission, a report ordered by President Lyndon B. Johnson which concluded that our nation is 'separate but unequal,' and which led to criminal justice reform throughout the country [7]. When done with calculated intentions, rioting has proven to be effective. 

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