Well, looks like social distancing has been called off.
That is one thought among many after a week of justifiable protests and unjustifiable lootings and mob violence following the murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer. The video has haunting echoes of the Gestapo and so many other state actors that have behaved with violent impunity over the course of history, and who have no place in American life.
Amidst the wreckage, and likely billions of dollars of damage to Philadelphia businesses already on the brink due to the pandemic, come horrific images of mobs pulling motorists out of cars and maiming them, beating and killing those protecting businesses, as in the case of a retired police officer in St. Louis, and mauling police officers who are outnumbered and, in many cases, advised not to respond with force. Add to this chaos the images of police cars driving through civilians and teargassing protestors on I-676.
But there is one image, in particular, I can’t get out of my head, and it is that of a middle-aged black woman sobbing to a local Minneapolis news station that the looters targeted the only stores she could go to: “These people are tearing up our livelihoods, and now I don’t have anywhere to go.”
This woman seemed completely ordinary to me, and totally devastated. Her stores, OfficeMax and Dollar Store, may seem small, but they were what she had, and now she doesn’t have them anymore.
She and others like her will be forgotten when the dust settles. And that is a sickening thought.
This week, regular people’s lives all over our country — immigrant business owners, working people in everyday neighborhoods — have been upended, and there is no excuse for it. No amount of coddling or justification — But the police are brutal! But rioting is the language of the unheard! — will get the injustice visited upon this woman — and others like her — out of my head.
This woman seemed completely ordinary to me, and totally devastated.
In Philadelphia, the results of looting in places like the 52nd Street corridor will linger for years to come. Jeff Brown, the heroic entrepreneur who has brought grocery stores into food deserts, was thanked for his efforts with 15-hours straight of ransacking of his Parkside ShopRite.
I have heard the laments from the peaceful protestors, that the rioters, brick throwers, and antifa militants will distract from their cause. They are right. Many Philadelphians will remember this as a week where violence, looting, and destruction reached them, dynamite sticks and police sirens blazing through the night.
And then there is a certain cohort, vastly overrepresented among hyperactive, online progressives, who will not acknowledge the excesses of the mob, the attacks on the police and business owners. They will downplay the ravages of the average woman from Minneapolis to those in Philadelphia — or blame somebody else, as Mayor Jim Kenney did when he declared, without justification, that “right-wingers” were among those responsible for the ransacking of Philadelphia.
This is a group that I know well — the “check your privilege” crowd, mostly white, upper-middle class, advocating for an end to “the system” from the comfort of their smartphones.
And then there is a certain cohort, vastly overrepresented among hyperactive, online progressives, who will not acknowledge the excesses of the mob, the attacks on the police and business owners.
They will show off their superior opinions online but can rest assured that violence and destruction will be passing over their doors.
Philadelphia, we must be brave in our response.
To those excusing the looting and the violence, say: Absolutely not.
To our police commissioner, who arrived from Portland, Ore., this year, say: We do not want our city to be synonymous with political violence like your last one was.
To Mayor Kenney, say: Lead, do not point the finger.
And to our progressive district attorney, whose experiment in social justice prosecution coincides with a surging murder rate targeting the same people that the elite left claims to support when it’s politically convenient, say: It is time you actually prosecute.
As our city and others around the country reinstall our collective storefronts, I will be remembering this crying woman. Will you?
Albert Eisenberg is a Philadelphia-based political consultant and a co-founder of Broad + Liberty. @albydelphia
This piece was originally published in the Philadelphia Inquirer and is reprinted due to our partnership with the publication. Read the original piece here.