“I just wanted to cry.” Atlanta burns again

Friday, June 5, 2020

Today’s post consists of quotes that struck me as our nation and we, as a people, a city, a community and as a family, have gone through the last ten days of protests in the name of George Floyd. The quotes speak for themselves and I chose them from a wide variety of people, from protesters on the street to well-known Civil Rights leaders to former and current presidents. I chose them because they spoke to me. I hope that you will read them all because we all need some speaking to.

The undeniable murder by police of another African American man caught on video by bystanders and police cameras showed it all. 

The despair, anger and centuries of frustration spread across the country and flowed into Atlanta, the heart of the Civil Rights Movement, my home town for the last two decades.

Andrew Young, former Atlanta Mayor and U.S. Ambassador, and former partner with the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., watched TV from home as the peaceful protest turned to violence. What he saw during the day had stirred his soul and memories of his days in the Civil Rights Movement in the 60s. And then, as he saw someone lighting the American flag on fire, he knew what was coming.

“I just want to cry,” he said. He wanted to cry because he knew better than anyone that the violence and looting will be used to overshadow the message to White America. He wanted to cry because he knows, although we’ve come far in our country’s relationship with race, we still have so much further to go. He wanted to cry because he and his time were not able to deliver our country and his children and his children’s children to the Promised Land.

It stirred me deep down. I knew how he felt. The right to peacefully assemble and bring our grievances to the government is a right of the American people. I grew up during the turbulent 60s and 70s, the days of ongoing antiwar and Civil Rights protest marches. The era of Kent State. The march on Selma. The march on Washington. The protests and riots in Chicago and Detroit. The Civil Rights sit-in in my hometown of Durham, North Carolina. The aftermath of the Rodney King trial. All too often, violence by a few overthrew the peaceful protests of the many. Military and uniformed Might came down in the name of preservation of law and order and in the form of attack dogs, fire hoses and billy-clubs. It’s hard not to see the irony in the fact that it was the unlawful and murderous act that began the protests in the first place. 

From Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, 5/29/20, after the day’s peaceful demonstrations turned to looting and burning.

“Above everything else I am a mother. When I saw the murder of George Floyd I hurt like a mother would hurt. You’re not going to out concern me and out care me about where we are in America. I pray over my children each and every day.

What I see happening is not Atlanta. This not a protest … this is chaos, a protest has purpose,” Mayor Bottoms said.

Statement from Congressman John Lewis

ATLANTA — “Sixty-five years have passed, and I still remember the face of young Emmett Till.  It was 1955.  I was 15 years old — just a year older than him.  What happened that summer in Money, Mississippi, and the months that followed — the recanted accusation, the sham trial, the dreaded verdict — shocked the country to its core.  And it helped spur a series of non-violent events by everyday people who demanded better from our country.  

“Despite real progress, I can’t help but think of young Emmett today as I watch video after video after video of unarmed Black Americans being killed, and falsely accused.  My heart breaks for these men and women, their families, and the country that let them down — again.  My fellow Americans, this is a special moment in our history.  Just as people of all faiths and no faiths, and all backgrounds, creeds, and colors banded together decades ago to fight for equality and justice in a peaceful, orderly, non-violent fashion, we must do so again.

“To the rioters here in Atlanta and across the country:  I see you, and I hear you.  I know your pain, your rage, your sense of despair and hopelessness.  Justice has, indeed, been denied for far too long.  Rioting, looting, and burning is not the way.  Organize.  Demonstrate.  Sit-in.  Stand-up.  Vote.  Be constructive, not destructive.  History has proven time and again that non-violent, peaceful protest is the way to achieve the justice and equality that we all deserve. 

“Our work won’t be easy — nothing worth having ever is — but I strongly believe, as Dr. King once said, that while the arc of the moral universe is long, it bends toward justice.”

A Tweeted response to Lewis’s statement

“I love you, you are a hero in my family but we have organized, sat in, stood up, voted,” Twitter user @RykerStevenson wrote to Lewis. “We’ve been doing that for decades. Maybe what the country needs is to know that if you murder a black man in the street then every street in major cities across the country will burn.”

“There’s COVID-19 and there’s COVID-1619 — the year when slavery came to America.”

Pastor Hans Lee, at the Calvary Lutheran Church, a block away from where George Floyd was killed.

Reporting on the ground in Minneapolis, 6/1/20

“The Daily” podcast by The New York Times on Sunday night, focused on the protests that had spread across the city. John Eligon, a national correspondent who covers race for The Times, a black man, was in downtown Minneapolis following a group of protesters marching towards the interstate. The march came upon lines of police armed with billy-clubs and tear gas and were under orders not to allow the demonstration to get to the interstate. The police surrounded the group and arrested about 200 of them for violating the 8 p.m. curfew. It was a peaceful submission.

While the protestors were waiting to be processed and taken to jail, Eligon interviewed a young black woman. He asked her what it was like for her that night.

BLACK FEMALE PROTESTER: “It was scary. Bad. I was scared but you want to stand up for something right.” 

ELIGON: ‘Why was it important for you to come out?”

BLACK FEMALE PROTESTER: “My younger brothers…they have been profiled since they were 8 years old. White woman got her bike stolen and they took my brothers while they were riding their bikes on their way to get a haircut and put them in the back seat of a police car. Taunting them. Then, they let this white woman be the judge of whether they were guilty or not. That’s why I am here. It happened in 2009. This is not a new problem. 

“Everybody is doing their job. They’re on one side and I’m on the other side. They’re not backing down and we’re not backing down. That doesn’t mean I want them hurt. It doesn’t mean that I hate them. But I am going to stand up for what I believe in. 

“The problem is the system. The power. We’re fighting the power. And until everybody is out here and we outnumber everybody on the other side things will never change. Things haven’t changed in years.

“I’m a Black American. I’ve never been arrested. The only difference between me and you is you have the press badge.” 

When Eligon asked a black male protester in the group, “Do you think this is necessary to keep the peace, to hold down the violence?” the protester offered this measured response, 

BLACK MALE PROTESTER: “You’re a black man looking me right in the eyes. You think this is necessary? It coulda been you [referring to George Floyd]. It coulda been me. Instead, you’re holding the phone. The only difference between you and me is that you have the press badge and that camera. Otherwise you would have been arrested for being here.”

NYT reporter says destroying property is ‘not violence’

New York Times reporter Nikole Hannah-Jones argued that rioters destroying property is “not violence” — and referring to the crimes as such goes against what’s moral.

“Any reasonable person would say we shouldn’t be destroying other people’s property, but these are not reasonable times,” she said.

“These are people who have protested against police violence again and again and again, year after year after year and still, we can have videos of law enforcement with witnesses taking the life of a man for the alleged crime of passing a fake $20 bill.”

“The law is not respecting them. You can’t say regular citizens should play by the rules when agents of the state are not,” she continued.

Full-page Ad in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, June 2, 2020

Team ROC, philanthropic arm of Jay-Z‘s Roc Nation, took out full-page ads in newspapers across the U.S. in support of protesters. This includes The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

The ad is dedicated to George Floyd, Publication of the ad marks a partnership with multiple families who’ve lost children to police brutality, as well as activists and attorneys. The letter quotes from the speech Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. gave in Selma in 1965. 

“A man dies when he refuses to stand up for that which is right. A man dies when he refuses to stand up for justice. A man dies when he refuses to take a stand for that which is true. 

“So we’re going to stand up amid horses. We’re going to stand up right here, amid the billy-clubs. We’re going to stand up right here amid police dogs, if they have them. We’re going to stand up amid tear gas!

“We’re going to stand up amid anything they can muster up, letting the world know that we are determined to be free!”

An email statement from singer/songwriter James Taylor, May 31, 2020      

THE GEORGE FLOYD KILLING where the rubber bullet meets the road to freedom

A time has come in our country where a significant amount of the people demand a change. We have been here before, at a time when the people spontaneously take to the streets out of a common sense of outrage. In my opinion, we have forced our societal problems into this confrontation between the police, who are tasked with keeping the peace, and a segment of our population, subjected to perpetual, institutionalized suffering. We have seen their road to freedom and equality blocked, their great struggle thwarted and stalled. We have let our leaders drop the baton. They have encouraged a backlash against what we know to be right: the inclusion of African Americans in the rights and privileges guaranteed by our constitution. In denying those constitutional rights, we have forced this failure upon our police. But the hammer sees only the nail. Of course we must rigorously police our police, that is given. But seeing this only, or even primarily, as a police failure: a problem to be fixed where the rubber meets the road, is tragically myopic.

What we face is nothing less than The Great American Mission: a national commitment to ending the injustice of Slavery and a national rejection of racism…

~James Taylor

Excerpts from President Donald Trump’s speech, 6/1/20 from the Rose Garden

“ I am your President of law and order, and an ally of all peaceful protesters.

“If the city or state refuses to take the actions that are necessary to defend the life and property of their residence, then I will deploy the United States military and quickly solve the problem for them.” 

From Barack Obama 6/1/20

How to Make this Moment the Turning Point for Real Change

I’ve heard some suggest that the recurrent problem of racial bias in our criminal justice system proves that only protests and direct action can bring about change, and that voting and participation in electoral politics is a waste of time. I couldn’t disagree more. The point of protest is to raise public awareness, to put a spotlight on injustice, and to make the powers that be uncomfortable; in fact, throughout American history, it’s often only been in response to protests and civil disobedience that the political system has even paid attention to marginalized communities. But eventually, aspirations have to be translated into specific laws and institutional practices — and in a democracy, that only happens when we elect government officials who are responsive to our demands.

the elected officials who matter most in reforming police departments and the criminal justice system work at the state and local levels.

“I can’t legislate you love me, but I can pass laws to stop you from lynching me.

I can’t legislate the heart, but I can legislate to restrain the heartless.”

Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. as quoted by Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey

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