Reckoning With the Aftermath of George Floyd

“There is a point in the history of a society,” wrote Friedrich Nietzsche, “when it becomes so pathologically soft and tender that among other things it sides even with those who harm it, criminals, and does this quite seriously and honestly.” The German philosopher of gruff pessimism speaks to the spirit of our time on the anniversary of George Floyd’s death, which set off last year’s days of rage that ripped and razed communities nationwide. 

In retrospect, laments CNN’s John Blake, “Floyd’s death did not lead to a racial reckoning.” Blake’s position is generally consistent with how the Left feels in America: last year did not go far enough. That may come as a surprise, however, to those with vivid memories of the riots that caused more than $1 billion in damage, making them the most expensive in insurance history. Therefore, it is worth revisiting the early stages of mayhem to glimpse what, to the Left, was only a beginning or a false start.

Burn, Loot, Murder

The 72 hours that followed George Floyd’s death on Monday, May 25, saw Minneapolis plunged into a shocking disorder. Rioters reduced to ash Midtown Corner, a $30 million, six-story rental complex with 189 apartments for low-income renters, including more than three-dozen units for very low-income tenants. Looters pillaged businesses big and small, with the latter already struggling due to the COVID-19 lockdowns. 

The Town Talk Diner and Gastropub, a historic restaurant in Minneapolis, was destroyed three days before it was to reopen for outdoor service after months of being closed. A wheelchair-bound woman was struck multiple times in the head, maced, and sprayed with a fire extinguisher for attempting to stop looters at a store. Mobs predominated by minorities, ironically, devastated minority-owned businesses. Government vehicles were hijacked, looted, and demolished across the city.  

By Thursday morning, May 28, the City of Lakes resembled Mogadishu more than a midwestern metropolis. But more mayhem was to come. That night, rioters set fire to the Minneapolis Police Department’s Third Precinct. Hours after officers retreated from the burning building with agitators hot on their heels, a woman was found dead with visible signs of trauma inside a car in the middle of the road by North Bryant and 17th Avenue. Later, the charred body of a man would be found in the wreckage of a pawnshop set ablaze by Montez Terrill Lee on May 28. “The shop is several blocks east of the police department’s Third Precinct stationhouse, which was set ablaze that same night in an explosion of anger over Floyd’s death three days earlier,” the New York Post reported.

As Minneapolis burned, riots erupted in other cities and the discord would continue to roil for days. Their sound and fury raged on in stark contrast with then-President Donald Trump’s silence and inaction. On the morning of May 29, key domestic policy advisors urged the president to stay his hand against rioters lest he appear racist.

That night, gunmen attacked two federal protective contractors during a Black Lives Matter demonstration in Oakland, California. David Patrick Underwood, one of the contractors, died of his wounds at the scene. 

The next day, in Dallas, Texas, a white man who attempted to scare off mobs of looters with a machete was chased down and severely beaten. Elijah Schaffer, a reporter on the ground, live-streamed rioters pulling a black man out of his car and savagely attacking him on the streets. An internal police memo reviewed by an ABC affiliate revealed more than 50 businesses in downtown Dallas were damaged “due to looting and/or civil unrest,” and “multiple officers” were injured.

On May 31, a woman surrounded by demonstrators was pulled from her vehicle in Niagara Square and beaten in the street. 

Insurrection Acts

By Monday, June 1, scores of Secret Service Uniformed Division officers and special agents sustained injuries from rioters throwing bottles, bricks, and Molotov cocktails in Washington, D.C. 

Breaking his long silence, President Trump suggested that day he might deploy the United States military to quell lawlessness, presumably by invoking the Insurrection Act conveniently signed by Thomas Jefferson in 1807 for just this purpose. Trump threatened to invoke that law in 2019 to remove illegal aliens from the United States. But then, as in this instance, the president’s bark turned out to be worse than his bite. He quietly sheathed the executive sword and settled then for deploying unarmed National Guardsmen in the nation’s capital. 

June 1 would be one of the most violent days in many cities.

Looting, vandalism, and shootings swept through Memphis, Tennessee, with one officer shot at multiple times after responding to a burglary call. In Las Vegas, a rioter shot police officer Shay Mikalonis in the head, leaving him in critical condition. The Las Vegas Review-Journal reports Mikalonis is paralyzed from the neck down, requires 24-hour care, and breathes with the assistance of a ventilator.

Looters hit an officer in Greenwich Village as they fled a cell phone store in an SUV. Three officers at a George Floyd demonstration in Buffalo, New York, were also injured when an SUV deliberately plowed into them; the same day that the Chicago Police Department reported 132 officers were wounded during the riots and three officers in Davenport, Iowa were ambushed by gunmen. The chaos only continued to escalate the next day.

On Tuesday, June 2, four police officers were shot in St. Louis while confronting protestors. One retired police captain, David Dorn, was murdered by looters while protecting his friend’s pawnshop. His final moments were broadcasted on Facebook Live by a bystander. “They just killed this old man at the pawnshop over some TVs,” said the man streaming on his phone. “C’mon, man, that’s somebody’s granddaddy.” 

Responding to reports of 20 to 30 people pillaging a pawnshop near Yankee Stadium, an NYPD sergeant was run over and left with severe injuries. The suspects were arrested on Friday, May 5, in Georgetown, South Carolina. Nevertheless, and though South Carolina suffered its own waves of violence, looting, and vandalism, the Georgetown sheriff, police chief, and mayor all locked arms to march with Black Lives Matter the following day. They joined the various law enforcement, National Guard units, and federal agents across that country who chose to bend the knee to the mob rather than protect communities. 

Catch and Release

Even before the fire of mayhem began to die out, it became evident that many affected cities were releasing rioters just as soon as they caught them. 

Prosecutors in Washington, D.C. released hundreds of rioters, looters, and vandals with a slap on the wrist. “Although many of those arrested were charged by police with felony rioting, that charge was dropped by prosecutors in most cases,” the Washington Post reported on June 1. “After making their initial appearances in D.C. Superior Court, nearly all defendants were freed pending future court appearances.”

Two days after Dorn’s murder, the few people arrested in St. Louis for rioting, looting, and committing arson were set free. “In a stunning development, our office has learned that every single one of the St. Louis looters and rioters arrested were released back onto the streets by local prosecutor Kim Gardner,” tweeted Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt.

In Dallas, “police Chief Reneé Hall reversed her decision to file charges against 674 people who went onto Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge during a demonstration Monday,” reported an ABC affiliate. Hall described the people obstructing the highway as “peaceful,” but these agitators have shown that they only remain peaceful so long as all before them bend the knee—as Hall, along with so many officers and city officials, did in solidarity.

New York quietly set loose hundreds of looters and rioters due to the state’s new bail reform law. The law eliminated cash bail for most misdemeanor and non-violent felony charges, including stalking, assault without serious injury, burglary, various drug offenses, and even some kinds of arson and robbery. During the first three months the law was in effect, New York’s jail population dropped significantly, Barnini Chakraborty reports. “At the end of 2019, the number of people jailed across the state was close to 20,000. By March of 2020, the number had dipped to 15,000.” At the time, New York City police chief Terence Monahan said, “just about all” of the looters arrested will be released without bail. Oscar Odom, a former NYPD detective, told Fox News thanks to bail reform, “99.9 percent” of the people arrested and released from jail likely went right back to looting.

Alexi Rosenfeld/Getty Images

New York’s bail law brings to mind something that happened in California during the lockdowns, all but forgotten amid the spectacle of violence. 

The California Judicial Council set bail at zero for most misdemeanor and low-level felonies to keep the jail population lower in early April, supposedly to slow the spread of COVID-19. As a result, police in Glendora arrested and released a man for car theft and other property crimes three times in the same day. The bail policy prevented them from keeping him in custody. 

For the same reason, California also released several high-risk registered sex offenders, one of whom was arrested two weeks after his release for exposing himself.

In the months leading up to nationwide unrest, cities across the country quietly enacted similar bail reforms with COVID-19 as the pretext to release tens of thousands of inmates.

On March 31, 2020, KSDK, an NBC affiliate in St. Louis, reported Gardner facilitated the release of many inmates, including a man who fired a shot at a cab driver during a robbery, one accused of assaulting a woman who said her child accused him of sexual abuse, another who robbed a restaurant and pointed a gun at an employee, an inmate who shot another man, and a man who fled the scene of a fatal accident. When Missouri Attorney General Schmitt complained that Gardner had not notified victims of their release in violation of the state’s public records law, Gardner appealed to the convenient necessities of the hour. “Your mischaracterization of my actions to prevent the spread of COVID-19 are inappropriate and concerning,” she wrote, without addressing any of Schmitt’s claims of malfeasance.

Two months later, the violent unrest in Missouri claimed the life of David Dorn.

The Perils of Police Reform

It is difficult to get answers from police departments about whether inmates released on the pretense of coronavirus concerns were subsequently rearrested, cited, or given a summons for participating in nationwide mayhem recently. The Dallas Police Department told me plainly at the time: “We do not track that information.”

We do know, however, that many of these inmates fit the profile of people whose release would act as kindling for the bonfires of violence.

Joseph Edward Williams, one of more than 160 inmates released from Hillsborough County jails in Florida amid the COVID-19 jailbreak, murdered a man the day after he was freed. In Denver, Colorado, a man paroled due to coronavirus concerns killed a 21-year-old woman three weeks after his release. Between early April and mid-May, the Denver Post reported, the vacancy rate in the prison system grew to 11 percent from 1 percent.

Two prisoners in New York released from jail early due to the coronavirus subsequently committed crimes, one in which a victim was stabbed with a screwdriver. The Virginia Parole Board released violent convicted felons in early May, “including a man who killed a police officer in Richmond, and two other people who killed while they were minors in Suffolk,” an NBC affiliate reported

A man in California imprisoned for beating and raping a woman he held captive this past New Year’s Day was released amid the pandemic, only to be killed in a standoff with SWAT. 

The Michigan Department of Corrections paroled hundreds of prisoners to “flatten the curve.” A sheet of inmate names shows a litany of charges ranging from homicide, armed robbery, assault with intent to commit murder, criminal sexual conduct with a child under 13, assault with intent to commit rape, “child sexually abusive activity or material,” carjacking, malicious destruction of fire or police property, arson, and more—all set free to “stop the spread” of the coronavirus.

Governor Inslee released 1,100 criminals in Washington state, from prolific DUI offenders and burglars to drug dealers.

Two convicted murderers were among the more than 200 inmates released by the Massachusetts Department of Correction, one of which had stabbed her victim “108 times over the course of several hours.”

On April 16, 2020, WIFR reported that Illinois Governor J. B. Pritzker had granted clemency to more than 1,000 prisoners because of the pandemic. A spreadsheet titled “COVID FINAL list of early exits” shows charges ranging from sexual assault, armed robbery, making heroin, aggravated domestic battery, aggravated vehicular hijacking of a handicapped person, and murder.

By April 29, Illinois had unleashed almost 4,000 inmates, including 64 convicted murderers. A list of inmates reveals rapists, thieves, drug dealers, and an assortment of violent criminals. Cook County, the seat of which is Chicago, released hundreds of inmates because of the coronavirus while hiding their names and charges from police. “The greatest fear people have is the fear of the unknown,” Kevin Graham, president of the Chicago Fraternal Order of Police, told the Washington Times. “We don’t know what is occurring, we don’t know why people are being released, we don’t know their offenses, and we don’t know if these people pose a danger to society.”

This is only a partial list of events last year fueled by Black Lives Matter and opportunistic ideologues and cynics. The very foundations of public and private life underwent a tectonic shift as the ground trembled beneath the feet of masochistic whites carrying the raised fist of black power on a litter garlanded with flowers. Soaring over and above that golden calf of white self-loathing and narcissism are violent crime rates in cities across that country that show no sign of abating. 

Policing efforts across the country are increasingly retreating from countering violent crime to acting as the enforcement arm of the managerial regime. The military is thoroughly infected with the anti-white, anti-American blight called “critical race theory.” Corporations that gave material and moral support to Black Lives Matter effectively fueled the riots that destroyed small businesses, claimed the lives of Americans, and fundamentally changed the country for the worse. 

The Left insists that not enough blood and tears of others were spilled. Of course, they would—they’re living larger than ever. 

BLM co-founder Patrisse Khan-Cullors, a self-described Marxist, went on a real estate buying spree, acquiring high-end homes in the United States and eyeing ultra-exclusive property abroad. Documents reviewed exclusively by the Associated Press show that the Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation pulled in over $90 million last year. Khan-Cullors insists she does not receive a salary or benefits from Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation. It’s a wonder, then, how she acquired some of these properties. 

“Last year,” the New York Post reported, “Khan-Cullors and spouse Janaya Khan ventured to Georgia to acquire a fourth home—a ‘custom ranch’ on 3.2 rural acres in Conyers featuring a private airplane hangar with a studio apartment above it, and the use of a 2,500-foot ‘paved/grass’ community runway that can accommodate small airplanes.”

The Economist estimates a much larger number in overall donations to BLM than does the Associated Press. Between May and December 2020, donations to Black Lives Matter-related causes reached $10.6 billion. Where has that money gone, and how many activists have fared as splendidly as Khan-Cullors?

On the Right, the architects of the Trump White House’s soft-on-crime policies and positions are celebrities of MAGA Inc. Brooke Rollins is the president and CEO of the hilariously named “America First Policy Institute,” where Ja’Ron Smith is chairman of the Center for Second Chances, carrying on the good work of letting bad people out from behind bars. As an institution, the GOP is more or less on board with the basic narrative of systemic racism, choosing the likes of Senator Tim Scott (R-S.C.) as its figurehead.

Blake is right that a reckoning has yet to materialize; it’s not the one he wants, however, but the one a pathologically soft and tender America needs.

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About Pedro Gonzalez

Pedro Gonzalez is associate editor of Chronicles: A Magazine of American Culture and an adjunct fellow of the Center for American Greatness. He publishes the weekly Contra newsletter. Follow him on Twitter @emeriticus.

Photo: Elijah Nouvelage/AFP via Getty Images

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