This is very hard to process

This is all very hard to process.

Looking at my Twitter feed today was a real shock. Given the time difference, I guess these videos are all from yesterday.

In New York there are really ugly looking protests going on. It’s hard to interpret it all. I see people throwing trash in streets, and smashing police barricades. I see police in violent altercations with protesters, but I can’t tell anything about the context. Around 0:25 I clearly see a protester punch a policeman, but I don’t know what happened just prior to that. I am pretty sure I see fires burning in storefronts. If I were living in these neighborhoods I think I would be terrified. 0:57 seems to show a very aggressive policeman assaulting protestors, but the editing makes it unclear how this started. There’s a lot of property damage. I hear gunshots at the end which I assume are police firing rubber bullets.

Someone captured footage of a policeman getting out of police car, in a cordoned off area of Washington DC. He was dressed as a protestor & claimed to be a CNN reporter when questioned. The obvious conclusion is that he is an agent provocateur. The same thing has been happening in New York. This sort of thing deeply, and rightly, undermines trust in institutions. We should remember that mistrust in the police institution is one of the underlying causes of the current unrest.

The presence of plainclothes officers embedded in the crowd make is much more difficult to interpret footage like this. Note at 0:26 how naturally one of plainclothes offices pushes around protesters. The sheer amount of violence the inflict on a supine opponent is appalling. It makes things like this legitimately suspicious.

Here we seem to see police aiming non-lethal rounds directly at obvious news reports. Apparently 7 people were shot at that protest. Here the NYPD slams a protester with a car door. Here’s the Oakland police beating up a black man at a protest. A police precinct in Minneapolis was burned down. There are huge numbers of peaceful protesters. The Oakland police shot what seems to be clearly a peaceful protestor with rubber bullets. Here is another video of police attacking. Apparently a driver refused to transport a busload of arrested protesters. Here a driver seems to deliberately run over protesters. Here is an immense group being allowed to protest in peace. Elsewhere, the National Guard was deployed. I found this image from Kentucky particularly touching.

The police are suffering too. Let’s keep in mind that they too are human beings. When the institution defends itself, it claims abuses are caused by outliers. “A few bad apples” is a popular refrain. If things are to improve, we have to recognize that institutional change is required, meaning the root problems are systematic and institutional. While a few bad apples must certainly do exist, I try to remember the police are full of good men and women struggling to do right in an impossible situation. I suspect may struggle to maintain their humanity inside troubled systems. Here’s more police violence in New York. Remember that policeman pretending to be a CNN reporter? Here’s Omar Jimenez, a real CNN reporter, being arrested by Minneapolis while reporting live. Here is another driver running over a protester. It’s difficult to tell if the drivers were being aggressive, or were panicking. This is absolutely baffling.

I would love to know more about what’s going here. It sounds like a shooting at a Detroit protest. Here’s how people in Adelaid got see the U.S. today. At some point, I just had to quit looking. It doesn’t seem to end.

My son asked me why these things are happening. I think Cornel West did a great job on answering that question, but I have to put some thought on how to explain it to a six year old.