The Senseless Destruction of Property in Kenosha, Minneapolis, and Elsewhere Is Not Advancing Justice
The shooting of Jacob Blake, a black man, by a white police officer in Kenosha, Wisconsin, on Sunday was excessive, unnecessary use of deadly force.
Video of the incident is graphic and infuriating. After responding to what the police described as a “domestic incident,” one of the cops grabs Blake’s shirt from behind and proceeds to fire into him seven times at point-blank range. Blake somehow managed to survive the attempted murder, but his father has told media outlets that Blake has been paralyzed from the waist down. At least two of the cops involved in the incident—including the officer who emptied his clip into the back of an unarmed and nonviolent suspect—have been placed on leave.
The officers involved should lose their jobs. The cop who pulled the trigger—then pulled it again, and again, and again—should be charged with the same offenses that any other civilian who fired a weapon that many times into someone else’s back would face, and should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. That is what justice demands.
But for many who see the video of Blake’s shooting, that kind of justice is insufficient. The public outrage has evolved past seeking individual remedies for these not-so-isolated incidents. The use of unnecessary and life-altering force against Jacob Blake reminds us of the equally unnecessary and violent deaths of Eric Garner, George Floyd, Philando Castile, Breonna Taylor, and many others. Discrete justice does not address the systemic problems that plague policing in America. And thanks to qualified immunity—the court-created legal doctrine that often shields police officers from accountability when they hurt, maim, or kill—even discrete justice is often denied.
We should all be angry that this keeps happening, and that anger should be directed towards the police officers who perpetrate these crimes, towards the police departments that produce and protect bad cops, and towards the justice system that fails to hold murderers accountable because they were wearing a badge when they pulled the trigger.
That anger should not, must not be directed towards other innocent parties. Unfortunately, that keeps happening too.
“It’s emotionally hurtful, but we didn’t do anything to anybody. Why did we deserve it?”
Near tears, a store owner explains how his family business of 40 years was destroyed by #BLM & Antifa arsonists last night
— ELIJAH RIOT (@ElijahSchaffer) August 25, 2020
That’s Scott Carpenter, one of the owners of what was B&L Office Furniture in downtown Kenosha. Carpenter’s business was torched on Monday night by protestors angered by the Blake shooting. And his property wasn’t alone. Rioters set fire to stores, cars, garbage trucks, and more in a wanton display of destruction and violence that serves no purpose.
From earlier in the night: One of the many buildings that was set on fire in Kenosha. pic.twitter.com/P6btJ2M01x
— Julio Rosas (@Julio_Rosas11) August 25, 2020
The destruction of private property is, of course, counterproductive to the goals of criminal justice reformers who want to see justice for Blake’s would-be murderer and systemic changes to prevent future such police violence. These riots take attention away from where it should be—on the police officers who tried to kill a seemingly innocent man on Sunday—and provide an opportunity for politicians and police apologists to call for even more aggressive state action.
But these incidents are also appalling and wrong on their own. If the root of the injustice in Kenosha, Wisconsin, was the use of violence against an innocent person, more violence perpetrated against more innocent people will increase the sum total of misery and unnecessary suffering.
It was the same in Minneapolis, where protesters rightfully angered over Floyd’s unjustified killing at the hands of a white police officer torched a police station and then moved on to burning liquor stores, restaurants, book stores, and more. The destruction is senseless in every way.
“The straight line between Floyd’s death and the burning of the Third Precinct is easily discerned: The building, a menacing freestanding structure on East Lake Street, is now ringed in temporary fencing; boulder-like concrete blocks wall up its former entrance and metal screens cover its windows,” writes Armin Rosen, a former Reason intern, wrote in a deeply reported feature published this week at Tablet. “The potential social justice value of the destruction of the Mama Safia Somali café across the street is hard to tease out.”
The destruction of Scott Carpenter’s furniture store is similarly difficult to comprehend. The same is true for every business, large and small, that’s been damaged or destroyed during a summer of unrest in cities across the country.
Despite efforts to redefine the term, violence against property is still violence. It is not justice—nor is it an adequate substitute for it or a path towards it. Burning private property won’t bring George Floyd back to life or save Jacob Blake from the hell he is now enduring. Looting won’t hold their murderers and attempted murderers to account.
Demand justice for those hurt and killed by police. Stop creating more victims.
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