October 28, 2020

Stevens County Times

Your spot for community news in Stevens County, Minnesota

Letter: Heroes and villains

I read Katie Erdman’s column from June 9 with some dismay over two broad issues. First, you judge the protesters by the actions of a few looters in the same way you don’t want the police judged; and second, you seem much more concerned about looting and vandalism than about the killing of an unarmed, handcuffed citizen by police. 

Regarding the first issue, I agree that officer Chauvin didn’t get up that morning planning 

to kill someone and I also don’t think any protesters got up planning to set fires or break windows, but there were a few looters among thousands of protesters while EVERY officer on the scene contributed by action, or inaction, to the death or Mr. Floyd. It is also hard to accept the “bad apple” theory for the police when you see officer Chauvin staring into the camera, knowing he is being filmed, while he kneels on Mr. Floyd’s neck ignoring pleas that he cannot breathe. Moreover, Mr. Floyd was already handcuff ed and on the ground when o ffi cer Chauvin arrived on the scene because he MIGHT have had a forged $20 bill. This could only happen because officer Chauvin knew he would not be held accountable. When officers sworn to uphold the law are more beholden to their fellow officers than the law, we have a problem that goes beyond a few bad cops.

I, like you, am pro police. Cops deserve some leeway in their dangerous jobs, but most law enforcement involves “warrior” training which has not served our communities well. Police need to be able to enforce the law without treating everyone like an enemy combatant. It’s hard, but that’s the job.

Regarding the second issue, I, like you, am against looting and arson. When I see cities on fi re, I get nervous. We had a chance to make changes after Philando Castile and others were killed, but we didn’t. The victims don’t usually look like you or me, so it is hard to imagine being in their place. How many times have tragedies like these happened without a camera? As far as I know, no innocents have been seriously hurt by the protesters. Target will replace their windows and collect insurance, but George Floyd, Philando Castile, Jamar Clark, Eric Garner, Trayvon Martin, Ahmaud Arbery, and too many others are dead – forever. It is impossible for us to know what it feels like to be on the other side of this because we don’t have any skin in the game – on many levels. 

The social contract – that we are all created equal and should be free to pursue Life, Liberty, and Happiness – has been broken for hundreds of years in this country for citizens of color and native peoples. You have an important role in this community and a platform in your institution, so I hope you, like me, will recognize that until our friends and neighbors of color can be equally served and protected by our institutions, we are not living up to the principles upon which this great country was founded.

Eric Buchanan, Morris