Opposing riots shouldn’t be a partisan issue. Unfortunately, depending on who the rioters are, it’s largely turned into one.
On Tuesday, a jury found Derek Chauvin guilty of second- and third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.
As I write on Tuesday afternoon, it’s unknown what will happen tonight. But Minneapolis has been a powder keg. Officials deployed more than 3,000 National Guardsmen and more than 1,100 police officers from around the state to keep the peace. Businesses put plywood over their windows in hopes of limiting damage from rioters.
The tragic shooting of Daunte Wright, who was African-American, in a Minneapolis suburb last week increased tensions. There has yet to be any evidence that the shooting was racially motivated, but riots started anyway. Last week, vandals broke windows and looted stores.
On Saturday night, Rep. Maxine Waters joined the protesters. Instead of lowering the temperature, she raised it significantly. If the Floyd jury didn’t return a guilty verdict for murder, “We’ve got to stay on the street,” she said. “We’ve got to get more active. We’ve got to get more confrontational.”
Her statement was so egregious that the Chauvin trial judge said her comments could “result in this whole trial being overturned” on appeal.
Condemning Waters’ remarks should be no-brainer. Yet Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she didn’t think Waters needed to apologize. White House press secretary Jen Psaki declined to condemn her remarks but said President Joe Biden thinks protests should be peaceful. On Tuesday, House Democrats voted to table a resolution to censure her.
Compare this with the aftermath of January Capitol 6 riots. Even Republicans forcefully condemned rioters. So did Donald Trump.
That’s because condemning rioting shouldn’t be difficult. There should be universal, bipartisan agreement that Americans looting stores and burning buildings as a form of “protest” is wrong. No excuses.
But this is hardly the first time many Democrats have excused street violence. Over the past 10 months, Portland, Oregon, has endured a constant stream of low-level street violence. It’s barely even a news story now. One problem has been the refusal of local and federal authorities to prosecute rioters who’ve been arrested.
There’s a larger issue. Prominent Democrats have spent months parroting the line that the United States and policing are systemically racist. But taking it literally — that the country and policing are racist through and through — limits the intellectual high ground against rioting. After all, if the system is inherently rotten, why should someone abide by its rules?
The alternative isn’t that America and police are perfect but that both are based on just and noble ideals, even if those ideals have been improperly applied at times.
Let us hope there are no riots after this verdict. But if there are, they should be widely condemned by leaders from both parties.