These riots are not just about pent up frustration over police brutality and the murder of George Floyd under the knee of a Minneapolis police officer. In part, they’re about a population being locked up for three months while 40 million people lose their employment.
Politicians like New York City mayor Bill de Blasio cracked down on Jewish funerals and schools. They remained silent last night as hundreds of people joined protests which turned into riots in Brooklyn, injuring police officers and resulting in the arrest of several members of the Blac Block anarchist group, antifa.
Mayors in Atlanta and Minneapolis condemned the violent crowds which had gathered by the hundreds to turn on corporate businesses and small businesses alike and even the CNN headquarters building. But what was conspicuously missing from these condemnations were any health warnings that the deadly COVID-19 virus might spread as a result of these outbursts. We saw next to no hand-wringing and finger-wagging from the media or politicians about health concerns amid the riots, as we saw when Florida beaches and Lake of the Ozarks swimming pools started to fill up. If people can gather to torch a Target or an Autozone, why people should not be allowed to gather on restaurant patios and sports stadiums? The protesters have spoken with their feet.
The message is loud and clear: lockdown is over. Even Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is out walking the streets on a beautiful sunny day, broadcasting on Instagram Live without a mask covering her face. If our congressional representatives can stroll freely in the streets without face coverings and the dire warnings of increasing the spread of COVID-19, so can we. Enough is enough.
Token gestures toward the pandemic are still being made. In a headline ripped straight from the Onion, Minneapolis’s flaccid Mayor and Governor are telling people to wear their masks should they go out in public to protest. Thanks for the permission! Closed down bars and businesses have made alluring targets for groups of rioters looking for vulnerable targets. The property damage in Minneapolis is incalculable, and while opening up businesses immediately would not temper the entire mood of the country, it would certainly give the public other options. Give people something to do other than either sit home or join the hordes. Hair salons, restaurants, tattoo parlors, churches, bars, clubs, movie theaters and sports venues — open them all. Public officials have all but unofficially declared lockdown is over. Now is the time to open the country — all of it. End the lockdown. Stop the riots.
We’ll know in about 10 to 14 days if the past 90 days have been worth it. Mass crowds gathered in DC, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, Atlanta, Denver and the virus hot spot of New York, all ignoring the past three months of warnings from CDC experts, the White House, the World Health Organization and state officials. Should there be a spike, much like the one we’ve all been warned is bound to happen if large gatherings like these should occur, the authorities can all shame us again and give us one big ‘see we told you so!’ But as in Florida and Georgia and several other states with relaxed distancing orders, what happens if there isn’t?
There will be a lot to answer for from our public officials, should that be the case, and it won’t just be about the murder of George Floyd, which has become the spark that set the tinderbox on fire. Forty million people are out of work. Over 100,000 dead, and the riots happening all over the country are about to reveal if lockdown was worth it.