I’m back after a few days of silently watching current events and absorbing images and stories from various sources.

I’ve been thinking about the hundreds of Americans who, while marching in big urban areas and small towns to demand justice for George Floyd, have had rubber bullets, pepper spray, flash bangs, tear gas, and batons wielded against them for exercising their First Amendment rights. In cities that have imposed curfews in an attempt to keep looting to a minimum, the police (aided by the national guard) have attacked and beaten peaceful protestors, oftentimes trapping them on streets or bridges. It’s as if they’ve just been waiting for an opportunity to wield their weapons.

Every mayor who, in an effort to “clear the streets,” allows and authorizes law enforcement to act this way should be removed by voters at the earliest opportunity. Moreover, cops who seem to get a kick out of beating down and bruising their fellow citizens for mere misdemeanors should be removed from the force immediately, prosecuted, and never allowed to join another one.

This includes every person in uniform who was part of the attack on the protestors in Lafayette Park in front of the White House a few days ago when The Weak One wanted the path cleared so he could have his ridiculous photo op. Don’t give me any garbage about “following orders.” Their first responsibilities are to “serve and protect” the people and to the Constitution they have sworn to uphold. They have no obligation to carry out unlawful commands such as attacking unarmed civilians.

It’s abhorrent that there are now armed guards in front of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue — where the Liar-In-Chief finally managed to get a wall built (which is also not being paid for by Mexico) — as well as the Lincoln Memorial. Those troops are not wearing the insignia of any specific federal agency or branch of the armed forces. This is probably an attempt to avoid accountability and oversight, but — like the use of military vehicles and personnel — is reminiscent of footage from totalitarian regimes elsewhere in the world, not in the capital city of a nation that proclaims itself “the land of the free.”

Like virtually every Black person in America, Neil deGrasse Tyson has his own history of being harassed by police merely because of the color of his skin. It’s an issue he rarely discusses in public, but recent events have moved Tyson to write about it (in this piece, which you should read in its entirety). At the end, he offers a few suggestions for change:

  1. Extend police academies to include months of cultural awareness and sensitivity training that also includes how not to use lethal force.
  2. Police officers should all be tested for any implicit bias they carry, with established thresholds of acceptance and rejection from the police academy. We all carry bias. But most of us do not hold the breathing lives of others in our hands when influenced by it.
  3. During protests, protect property and lives. If you attack nonviolent protesters you are being un-American. And you wouldn’t need curfews if police arrested looters and not protesters.
  4. If fellow officers are behaving in a way that is clearly unethical or excessively violent, and you witness this, please stop them. Someone will get that on video, and it will give the rest of us confidence that you can police yourselves. In these cases, our trust in you matters more to a civil society than how much you stick up for each other.
  5. And here’s a radical idea for the Minneapolis Police Department—why not give George Floyd the kind of full-dress funeral you give each other for dying in the line of duty? And vow that such a death will never happen again.
  6. Lastly, when you see black kids, think of what they can be rather than what you think they are.

We’re a long way from fulfilling the ideal of that last point, but the process of change must start now. I know that’s a sentiment that has been expressed over and over and over again during my lifetime, but it’s still true. While the protests are important when it comes to changing minds, the most vital step towards fixing a system steeped in racism is to vote out those who encourage it — at every level.

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