Tag Archives: George Floyd

Replace ‘defund’ with ‘reform’ the police

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

I didn’t come up with this theory, but I am going to endorse it.

It goes like this: Democrats didn’t do as well on down-ballot races during the 2020 election because voters might have been alarmed at the slogan “defund the police” that many progressive candidates appeared to support.

Republicans chipped away at Democrats’ majority in the U.S. House and they well might maintain their slim majority in the U.S. Senate if Democrats fail to capture two seats in the Georgia runoff election set for next month.

What was the trigger? Protests erupted around the nation after the hideous death of George Floyd by Minneapolis cops. One of them is charged with murder in Floyd’s death. The protests declared it was time to “defund the police” in communities around the nation.

I am quite unsettled by that notion. I realize now that “defunding” police departments really didn’t mean disbanding municipal or county police agencies. Efforts took root in many cities to re-allocate police money to community services.

I am much more comfortable with the idea that we need to “reform” police practices in many communities, make the cops more sensitive to how others perceive them when they arrest minority residents and how they treat them once they are in custody.

Former President Barack Obama, who has re-entered the political arena with his full-throated support of President-elect Biden, spoke to this police issue the other day. He expressed concern about the “defund” slogan and whether too many Americans took it literally.

Communities need police protection the way they need fire protection, or water service, or having their garbage picked up. I am unaware of any serious American who favors lawlessness on our streets.

Am I frightened by the conduct of officers who react as those cops did in Minneapolis when George Floyd was killed seemingly because he was a black man who committed a misdemeanor offense? Absolutely, I am! I also am frightened by other reports in other communities of police officers shooting African-Americans who weren’t resisting arrest, or were running away from officers.

Defunding police departments, though, is not the answer … even in the form it is actually taking. We should change the discussion topic to “reform the police,” which is where I hope President Biden can take this discussion as we move it forward.

Portland is hurting … and so am I

It hurts me terribly to watch the city of my birth going through what is occurring at this moment.

Portland, Ore., has become the scene of a terrible, heavy-handed and tyrannical response from some sort of secret security force that is rounding up protestors and taking them … oh, somewhere.

The Oregon attorney general has filed a lawsuit against the Department of Justice, saying that the secretive security force is violating the civil rights of those who are protesting peacefully.

At issue, of course, has been the response to the death of George Floyd, the man who died at the hands of police of Minneapolis, Minn. Portland became one of the cities where protestors rose up in a “defund the police” movement.

In recent days, though, the situation has gotten out of hand. Security forces wearing unidentified uniforms have been collecting protestors, throwing them into motor vehicles and taking them to undisclosed locations; the protestors then are released.

It’s a bizarre, frightening and dangerous response from the federal government. Donald Trump has referred to the protestors as “anarchists” and hurled assorted other epithets at them.

Why does this trouble me so much? Well, for starters Portland in many ways no longer resembles the once-sleepy city where I spent the first 34 years of my life … minus a couple of years I was away serving in the U.S. Army.

I got married there. We brought our sons into this world in Portland. We moved away in 1984 to pursue my journalism career in Texas. My family and I have been back many times over the years and I have watched my hometown become a cosmopolitan, vibrant, busy and socially conscious city.

Now this has occurred. We have the president of the United States declaring his intention to “dominate” the streets to make sure the “anarchists” no longer protest. Really? This is happening in the city of my birth?

Watching this kind of jack-booted tyranny erupting in Portland simply hurts my heart.

Hey, Mr. VPOTUS, black lives do matter

Vice President Mike Pence had a chance Friday to say the words “black lives matter.”

He chose to avoid saying them. Maybe he thinks he’ll be struck by lightning, or will ignite in some form of spontaneous combustion simply by uttering the words. Instead, he told a TV interviewer:

“Let me just say that what happened to George Floyd was a tragedy,” Pence said Friday. “And in this nation, especially on Juneteenth, we celebrate the fact that from the founding of this nation, we cherish the ideal that all of us are created equal and endowed by our creator with certain inalienable rights. And so all lives matter in a very real sense.”

The death of George Floyd in Minneapolis has given the Black Lives Matter movement additional impetus. Floyd’s death at the hands of white police officers has spawned protests.

As it has happened in the past when Black Lives Matter becomes part of the national dialogue, those who take umbrage at the term pervert it, suggesting that Black Lives Matter devalues everyone else’s lives. It does no such thing, which I sense is what kept the VP from saying the words.

If I could prepared his response, I might have him say something like this: “Yes, black lives matter just as much as white lives matter, Latino lives matter, Asian lives matter, native American lives matter. We are created equal in the eyes of our Creator.”

See? That’s not so bad. Mr. Vice President, you and the Racist in Chief need to say the words.

Ex-cop faces some serious prison time

I’ve seen the video. You have, too. We’ve all seen it. The video is stomach-churning and heartbreaking.

Rayshard Brooks got stopped by Atlanta police. They tested his sobriety after finding him asleep in the drive-through lane at a Wendy’s restaurant.

He took a Breathalyzer test and came up slightly inebriated. He offered to walk to his sister’s house just a few blocks away. The cops sought to handcuff him instead. Brooks resisted; he wrestled a Taser stun gun from one of the cops; he ran away.

The cop — Garrett Rolfe — shot him in the back … twice while he was fleeing, running for his life. Brooks died later in a hospital.

Now the cop is charged with felony murder. This looks like a legitimate accusation to level at the former officer.

The ex-cop is white; Rayshard Brooks was black. It is another case in a distressingly long line of cases involving white police employing the heavy hand of the law on a young African-American. To think, as well, that this case happened while the nation is still reeling from the George Floyd case in Minneapolis, where another white officer snuffed the life out of Floyd, a black man who allegedly tried to pass a counterfeit bill.

Oh, my goodness. When will we learn? Ever?

‘Defunding’ = ‘reform’

I dislike the phrase “defund the police,” which has become all the rage — pun intended, really — across the nation these days.

Individuals and groups of Americans are angry at police departments over the way many of them treat African-Americans. They contend that the cops are much rougher and tougher on black citizens than they are on white folks.

Indeed, the videos we have seen — such as the George Floyd video in Minneapolis, which has spawned so much of the anger — tell a grim tale of “systemic racism” that many folks believe runs rampant in police departments.

If “defund the police” means “reform the police,” then why not call it what it is … a move to enact fundamental reform of police departments?

I don’t believe these efforts to “defund the police” means that communities will go without police protection. Cities such as Minneapolis, though, are taking gigantic steps toward redirecting police funds to other programs intended to assist communities in need.

My hope for all this anger is to see police departments, even those that haven’t been caught up in the swirl of controversy, enact meaningful reform. By “reform,” I intend to mean that the reforms will produce dramatic improvement in community/police relationships.

Every department, given the tenor of the times and the extreme anger being expressed all across the nation, would do well in this moment to examine carefully how their officers are being trained to respond to incidents involving  everyone they serve. That means black citizens, white citizens, immigrants … you name it.

Are they ensuring even-handed treatment of everyone with whom they come in contact? That is where reforming the police can begin.

Antifa getting a bad rap

BLOGGER’S NOTE: This post was published originally on KETR.org, the website for KETR-FM, based out of Texas A&M-Commerce.

“Antifa” as become a four-letter word in some circles around the nation.

It is meant as a sort of shorthand for a group that opposes fascism, as in “anti-fascism.” Of course, it has morphed into a more militant sort of operation. Of late, though, it has been blamed for fanning the flames of discontent and discord on our city’s streets in the wake of George Floyd’s tragic killing in late May by Minneapolis police officers who were arresting him for – get this! – allegedly passing a counterfeit $20 bill.

National Public Radio, though, has done some research on the conspiracy charges being leveled against “Antifa” and has found no credible evidence that the organization has sought to energize protesters, turning them into vandals, looters and rioters.

According to NPR: U.S. Attorney General William Barr has repeatedly blamed anti-fascist activists for the violence that has erupted during demonstrations over George Floyd’s death, but federal court records show no sign of so-called antifa links so far in cases brought by the Justice Department.

NPR has reviewed court documents of 51 individuals facing federal charges in connection with the unrest. As of Tuesday morning, none is alleged to have links to the antifa movement.

Of the cases brought so far, 20 involve allegations related to arson; 16 involve the illegal possession of a firearm, more often than not by a felon; another eight people face charges related to inciting a riot or civil disorder.

That doesn’t sound like a widespread Antifa conspiracy to me.

But it continues to resonate in many quarters around the country. I prefer to think of the protests as a legitimate reaction to an appalling demonstration in Minneapolis of police arrogance. We have heard the concerns expressed already too many times in other cities and towns about cops treating African-American detainees differently than they treat others. What the nation has seen via video recording is precisely the kind of policing that protesters insist must stop.

I want to add a brief post-script to all of this.

North and Northeast Texas have seen their share of demonstrations against the horror that revealed itself in the Twin Cities. There have been “unification” rallies in Princeton, Farmersville and Greenville. People have marched in Greenville, calling for an end to racism and brutal conduct. I attended a rally in Princeton where protesters didn’t march, but instead observed an 8 minute, 46 second moment of silence in George Floyd’s memory.

I am proud that we have kept our composure while lodging this legitimate redress of government policies.

Wanting to banish 2020 … be gone!

I am not one to wish away entire years.

Usually I take them as they come, slogging through the events as they transpire. I then wait for the ball to drop in Times Square and welcome the new year.

This year is vastly different. 2020 has been a serious downer, as in uber serious, man.

Right around the first month of the year we began getting word that some folks in China had been stricken by something called a “coronavirus.” Then … just like that it became a pandemic.

Donald John Trump, the “very stable genius” who runs the executive branch of our government, blew it off. It’ll disappear like a miracle, he said. Fifteen cases and — poof! — it’ll be gone. Well, it hasn’t just vanished. It has killed more than 115,000 Americans. Many more will die. The economy shut down, sending us into a recession. Trump resisted the seriousness of it. Then it dawned on him: Hey, we’d better do something; I mean, I’ve got a re-election campaign to run and those jobless numbers won’t look good as I campaign for another term.

And then came George Floyd’s death. The Minneapolis cops killed him after arresting him for trying to pass a counterfeit bill — allegedly. His death has ignited a firestorm of protest and recrimination. It’s still blazing out of control.

I want the year to end. First things first, though. We have this election coming up. I want Trump to be defeated by Joe Biden. I want POTUS gone from the White House. My preference would be that he escorted by the cops, maybe even the Marines who guard the White House.

I do have a serious concern about that election. It is that the coronavirus pandemic is going to frighten folks, keep them from voting. That plays in Trump’s wheelhouse. He proclaims a phony belief in “rampant voter fraud” if we vote by mail, which is his way of covering his a** against a big turnout that would boot his sorry backside out of office.

States should enact policies that enable voters to cast their ballots in a safe and secure manner. Texas isn’t likely to be one of them, as we are governed by Trumpkin Republicans who are faithful more to the man than to the Constitution they all swore to protect.

We’ll get through it. I just want the election to turn out the way I prefer. The rest of the year? I want it gone.

Trump fumbles chance to deal forthrightly with racial unrest

Donald J. Trump came to North Texas today ostensibly to talk about race relations, about police reform and about how to quell the suspicions of the African-American community about police protection in its neighborhoods.

Well, he didn’t come close to sealing the deal.

Trump spoke to mostly white folks. He snubbed three of Dallas County’s top law enforcement officials — all of whom are black — and talked mostly aloud about the demonstrations that turned riotous in response to George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis in late May.

Trump never mentioned George Floyd’s name in public. He talked about the beauty of seeing Minneapolis police use tear gas to disperse demonstrators.

Where was the public acknowledgement that there might, indeed, be a serious problem with police protection in African-American communities? I didn’t hear anything.

I continue to support police efforts to protect and serve the communities they patrol. I am not going to endorse the notion of “systemic racism” within all police departments. I do, though, acknowledge there needs to be serious examination of police practices and there should be a careful and thorough discussion of ways that police departments can ensure that they treat all citizens equally.

I wish Donald Trump would have spoken to all of that while he visited North Texas. He didn’t say a word publicly about police practices. He didn’t say a word about the man whose recent death has galvanized a movement.

Donald Trump failed once again.

Time has come for federal police reform

The nation is facing a watershed moment in its struggle to correct a problem that has grown into a full-blown crisis.

We must debate honestly, completely and comprehensively the issue of police reform at the federal level. What does that take? It requires our Congress — House members and senators — to determine that racist policies in local police departments have contributed to the needless deaths of too many African-Americans.

George Floyd’s tragic demise two weeks ago in Minneapolis, Minn., ad the hands of a rogue white cop appears to be the tipping point.

Democrats are calling for a national response. Republicans so far have been quiet about that. Democrats see racism as a national crisis; Republicans appear to view it as a local matter to be solved at the local level.

I believe today that we are entangled in a national crisis that needs a solution enacted by Congress and signed into law by the president of the United States.

We can talk all we want about police departments enacting policies that ban chokeholds or other restraint techniques that inhibit people’s ability to breathe … for crying out loud! Do we trust all PDs to do the right thing? No. We cannot.

I believe the time has come for Congress to enter this fight. There ought to be a solution that that makes use of these techniques a violation of federal law. I am not not altogether certain that we can endure the kind of response we have seen in the wake of George Floyd’s death.

Will a federal prohibition end this mistreatment of U.S. citizens? Probably not. However, there must be ways to apply deterrent pressure on beat cops and the brass sitting in police headquarters to ensure that they follow federal law or else face serious consequences.

Call it the George Floyd Law if you wish, or name it after any of the individuals who have died as a result of police brutality.

Let’s get it done!

Way to go, Mitt

I am developing a sort of vicarious relationship with a man I opposed when he ran for president of the United States, but whose conduct as a U.S. senator is making me quite proud of his courage.

That’s you, Mitt Romney, a Republican senator from Utah.

I voted proudly for President Obama in 2012 when he ran for re-election against Mitt Romney. I would do so again were the two men to seek that office against each other.

However, Sen. Romney is exhibiting the sort of spine that has been undiscovered among almost all of his Republican Senate colleagues. He is challenging Donald Trump openly and with vigor.

I will not forget that memorable speech Sen. Romney delivered on the Senate floor when he declared his intention to vote to convict Donald Trump on abuse of power during the president’s impeachment trial. He was the lone GOP senator to break ranks from the cult that has developed on Capitol Hill that seeks to protect Trump against those who seek political justice to be delivered to a man who is unfit to serve as president.

He has been excoriated for his vote. Trump has threatened him via Twitter. Mitt has stood his ground.

And now he is marching with “Black Lives Matter” protesters who are demonstrating against the kind of police brutality that killed George Floyd in Minneapolis. He is standing with those who are shocked and dismayed at Floyd’s death. He is one of distressingly few GOP public officials willing to stand on the right side of history.

Trump’s reaction to Mitt Romney has been to skewer him for acting on his own conscience and for doing what he believes is right.

I will stand proudly with Mitt Romney. If only others within his party would exhibit the level of courage that Sen. Romney continues to put on display.