A friend cautioned me last week not to write about the fires, looting and protesting that followed the death of George Floyd at the hands of a Minneapolis policeman on May 25. "You can't win," the friend said, with good reason.
So I didn't. But. on second thought, maybe a few words this week.
There are plenty of strange things that happened during that week, not the least of which were statements by veteran anchors and reporters that were quite critical of Mayor Jacob Frey and Gov. Tim Walz. Why weren't they doing anything, some asked. And then, when the National Guard, state troopers and other law enforcement personnel were called in to beef up the presence after a couple horrible nights of fires and looting, some of those same people asked if having such a large contingent of people trying to keep the peace was necessary. I couldn't figure that one out.
And then there was Mayor Frey fanning the flames — oh, that's right, I wasn't going to go there. And Gov. Walz — oops, not going there either. And then police union chief Bob Kroll — I'll let that one go also, although it's hard to do.
The biggest takeaway for me, other than the horrendous incident that precipitated the whole thing and cast the eyes of the world on Minnesota, was that many critics were willing to paint people on both sides — protesters and law enforcement — with too broad a brush.
Painting with a broad brush is defined, at least by me, as lumping everyone of a particular group or occupation together.
If you look it up in one of the sources available on the internet, it's defined as "to describe something in general terms without mentioning specific details and without paying attention to individual variations." There are other similar meanings available.
And that's what happened.
There were many protesters who played by the rules and didn't burn buildings or loot. And there are lots of good cops in the world, many, I'm sure, in Minneapolis. But here were people saying the looters and arsonists were doing the right thing, forgetting about all the others who didn't. And there were plenty of critics who let it be known that their feeling is that all cops are bad.
Let me be clear: What happened to George Floyd was beyond reprehensible. He wasn't resisting. He was begging for his life. And yet veteran policeman Derek Chauvin did what he did, as the bystander's phone video shows. There's no excuse for what happened.
It was heartening on Thursday when some Minneapolis police officers, many of them prominent in the department, issued a letter saying they wholeheartedly condemn what Chauvin did. The letter noted that the signees were from all ranks in the Minneapolis Police Department. "This is not who we are," they wrote, saying they were ready for change, reform and rebuilding.
It was not heartening earlier in the week to hear that Minneapolis City Council members want to "abolish" or "defund" the Minneapolis Police Department. Restructure it? Yes. But wiping out a police department is, at best, an ill-advised solution. Would you, a six-decade, older fan of the Minnesota Twins for example, drive in from Wanamingo, or Lake Benton, or Osakis, or Granite Ledge Township in Benton County, to attend a night game, and then walk a few blocks to your car, if there was no police department
I won't pretend I have the answers to remedy the situation. But it's a watershed moment for Minneapolis. A good start for meaningful reform could begin as early as today (June 12) when the Minnesota Legislature begins a special session. The Star Tribune noted in an editorial today that legislators in New York state met with their governor last weekend and quickly passed "a comprehensive set of reforms."
Wouldn't it be refreshing if there was a good bipartisan effort to start things on the right track in Minnesota that didn't include name-calling?
I know, that would be another Minnesota Miracle. But it's badly needed. - Luther Dorr
(Dorr is the former editor of the Princeton Eagle (2 years) and Princeton Union-Eagle (31 years) and has covered sports in the area for the past 53 years.)