When the verdict in the George Floyd murder trial came down, I was sitting at my computer. Five minutes after the final “guilty” was announced by the judge in Minneapolis, a police car rushed by on South Broad Street headed north, siren blaring.
I’m not sure if there was any connection, but the timing struck me.
I had braced myself for unrest. Last June, the streets were filled with angry people, and there are still scars on some storefronts and city sidewalks where protestors stormed the city after Floyd was killed.
While the lawyer in me wanted a fair verdict based on the facts, the human being who has to live in this city wanted a verdict that would keep me and my neighbors from being surrounded by an angry mob.
Thankfully, the verdict was announced and the streets remain calm. This time. And while I was relieved that the siren I heard was for something other than violent street mobs, some left-wing Philedelphians seemed to not share in that relief.
Instead, the verdict, according to a number of city progressives, wasn’t enough. Why am I not surprised?
For years, now, we have been treated with a litany of complaints about the ‘racist’ criminal justice system. Less than 20% of Philadelphia’s population saddled the rest of us with a District Attorney who believes that jails are anachronistic, bail is punitive and victims are inconvenient. We have a mayor who blithely pulls down statues and renames holidays while little brown and black children are being murdered almost daily. And we have progressive ideologues in positions of power who will not be satisfied until the entire house is burnt to the ground.
State Senator Nikil Saval, City Councilmembers Helen Gym, Kendra Brooks, and Jamie Gauthier, and State Representatives Elizabeth Fiedler, Rick Krajewski, and Chris Rabb issued a joint press release moments after Chauvin was found guilty on all three criminal counts. It’s a lot to digest, but let’s unpack it and try to understand the subtle and pernicious import of what our political progressives have to say:
“The violence that was done to George Floyd was simultaneously singular and universal. It was violence enacted on his body, and it was violence done to a family, to a community, to a nation, and to an entire world. The jury’s verdicts signify that the murder committed has been recognized as such by the State: a murder.”
As an attorney, the thing that really stands out from this section is the last line: ‘The jury’s verdicts signify that the murder committed has been recognized as such by the State: murder.”
These so-called progressives don’t say “the act committed has been recognized as murder.” They use the word “murder” to describe what they know the judgement should be without having to trifle with due process, and then seem to be saying that the government agreed with them. This is not how our legal system works. We don’t decide the legality or illegality of an act simply because it offends our sensibilities or because we saw a video on TV. No matter our self-assurance, we are not each the arbiters of criminality. The jury does not and cannot serve as a mere rubber stamp for our personal views of right and wrong because if it does, then we come dangerously close to deciding that we don’t need juries at all.
“This is a reflection of “justice” in accordance with our current systems. But these verdicts alone do not bring healing to a grieving family and to Black and Brown communities across our country. They do not right the fundamental injustice that George Floyd should be alive today. And they do not change the reality that throughout our city and country today, people feel unsafe in their own communities. People feel unsafe because housing is insecure, their families struggle paycheck to paycheck, and if violence happens, few structural supports exist to deescalate a situation and to help people heal.”
Again, the last line is the tell. Instead of pointing out the fact that people are unsafe in their communities because criminals with easy access to guns and drugs are preying upon innocents, our progressives suggest that the lack of safety is because “housing is insecure…families struggle paycheck to paycheck, and if violence happens, few structural supports exist to deescalate a situation and to help people heal.” In sum, safety is equated with the extent to which the government envelops the entire community in its apparently life-giving embrace.
So, in their minds, it’s not the fault of the criminals that people are in fear of their lives. It’s the fault of the government for not providing adequate wages and housing, and, oh yeah, the police failing to deal with a man lunging at them with a knife like they would someone who needs therapy and understanding as opposed to a presumptive killer. Changing this, they infer, will somehow do the almost godlike “justice” of bringing Floyd back to life.
It gets better:
“We have seen firsthand that we cannot incarcerate our way out of structural problems, including the problem of police violence. In order to achieve true justice and safety, we need to tackle the causes of police violence at their roots: white supremacy and racial capitalism.”
Ding, Ding, Ding!! Finally, they played it, that good old white supremacy card, paired with this new theory of “racial capitalism.” So, instead of incarcerating criminals who are terrorizing mostly minority neighborhoods, we’re being told that the mere existence of criminals is an indictment of our entire society. We must attribute those 18 prior felonies on their rap sheet to Adam Smith and conclude that our social and economic order–America–is culpable and, therefore, needs to be “tackled.”
And the closer:
“We need to recognize the distinction between what truly keeps us safe and what perpetuates systemic harm. The criminalization of poverty, hyper surveillance of communities of color, and militarization of police do not keep our communities safe. We must redirect the money spent on systems of oppression and instead invest in community resources and services, in housing, and in public schools. We must commit to following the leads of the communities who are most directly impacted and can best shape a new vision of public safety.”
The “hyper surveillance of communities of color.” The “criminalization of poverty.” The redirecting of “money spent on systems of oppression.” These vague and cunning phrases mask the policy goals of eliminating prisons, the police and any other institution that holds people accountable for their criminal acts. They do not want reform. They want revolution, and the fact that they serve it up in eloquent paragraphs doesn’t change the danger of their motives and the violence in their impact.
To be sure, reform is necessary. But reform presumes the underlying system to be worthy of keeping, so that it may be improved upon. These progressives and their supporters have instead used the Floyd verdict to express their blueprint not for reform but for our conversion into their imagined Leftist Utopia.
To paraphrase Churchill, this isn’t the end. It isn’t even the beginning of the end. It is the end of the beginning.
Christine Flowers is an attorney and lifelong Philadelphian. @flowerlady61