Guy Farmer: Don’t confuse violent riots with peaceful protests

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I was watching NBC's "Today" show last week when I heard an African -American college professor try to justify the violent riots sweeping the United States as an alleged protest against the apparent murder of 46-year-old African-American George Floyd at the hands (or knee) of a white Minneapolis police officer, who has been fired and charged with second-degree murder.

Let's get one thing straight at the outset: looting and burning neighborhood stores and small businesses owned by minorities and immigrants is NOT the way to honor the memory of Mr. Floyd. Violence sends the wrong message at a time when all of us, regardless of our skin color or political beliefs, need to address the all-important issues of racism and race relations in our increasingly diverse country. But it's impossible to have this much-needed discussion with anarchists who are throwing firebombs.

What does that kind of senseless violence have to do with the tragic death of George Floyd? Nothing! Violent riots erupted in downtown Reno last weekend as "angry protesters" (according to some local media) broke into Reno's City Hall and attempted to burn it down. Reno and Washoe County law enforcement officers quickly restored order as looters and rioters trashed stores and lit fires elsewhere in the Biggest Little City.

Reno Mayor Hillary Schieve denounced the violence and declared a dusk to dawn curfew, but the damage had already been done. Gov. Steve Sisolak told rioters who came from outside to destroy downtown Reno to "get the hell out of town." Good advice, governor.

John Fernandez, who owns a small downtown Reno restaurant, told the Reno Gazette Journal that he and his family had cleaned their restaurant on Saturday in anticipation of reopening this week after being closed for two months due to the coronavirus lockdown. The newspaper reported that "Fernandez and his two young children watched on live television as rioters kicked-in the restaurant's glass door and hurled rocks through the windows." "We watched it happen," said Fernandez. "It broke my heart when my kids started tearing up."

Well, that's what rioters "accomplished" in Reno. Are they proud of themselves? Did they do anything to improve race relations? Despite efforts to depict these nationwide riots as a black vs. white confron- tation, it's instructive to note that many of the rioters are white while a goodly number of police officers are black or brown. In fact, the Minneapolis police chief is an African-American law enforcement professional who was hired to calm racial tensions in that city.

In a video that's difficult to watch, former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin kept his knee on George Floyd's neck for more than eight minutes while Floyd gasped for breath and told police he couldn't breathe. Three fellow officers stood by as Chauvin appeared to squeeze the life out of Floyd, who died in the hospital. Chauvin was fired immediately after the incident and has been charged with second-degree murder; his fellow officers have been charged as accessories to murder and may also face federal civil rights charges.

As he usually does, President Trump exacerbated the painful situation with a series of incendiary tweets threatening rioters with "ominous weapons" and "vicious dogs." Meanwhile, the Floyd family called for an end to the violence.

Those responsible for the riots, including Antifa, designated as a domestic terrorist organization, and Black Lives Matter, which demonizes white people and police officers of all known skin colors, must be held accountable for their destructive violence. That's how to achieve justice for George Floyd, not by looting and attacking police officers.

Guy W. Farmer has been a civil rights advocate for more than 50 years.


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