U.S.

Toward Justice — and Order — in Minneapolis

Protesters loot and burn the Target store near the Minneapolis Police third precinct in Minneapolis, Minn., May 27, 2020. (Adam Bettcher/Reuters)

George Floyd, an unarmed black man, died shortly after being physically restrained by four Minneapolis police officers on Monday. His arrest on suspicion of a non-violent crime (passing a counterfeit $20 bill) was caught on a cellphone video and at least two store surveillance videos. From the videos that are public so far, it seems clear that the police used excessive force that killed him. He looked lifeless when released from the hold. Medics could not find a pulse. He was dead on arrival at the hospital.

The cellphone video is hard to watch: An officer kneels on Floyd’s neck, while two others hold him down. He moans “Please, I can’t breathe. . . . My stomach hurts. My neck hurts. Everything hurts. . . . (I need) water or something. Please. Please. I can’t breathe, officer. I cannot breathe. I cannot breathe.” The police suspected Floyd of being intoxicated and say they found him uncooperative, and he was an enormous man who had once done time for armed robbery, but there appears no sign that he was violent or dangerous. The surveillance videos do not even appear to show him resisting. Kneeling on a man’s neck is an extreme and dangerous step, well out of bounds for ordinary police procedures. The kneeling officer appears to have a long track record of complaints.

The citizens of Minneapolis are right to demand an investigation and potential prosecution. As bad as the videos look, however, we have a constitutional process for examining such cases for a reason. Videos, especially those that pick up partway into an incident, can be misleading. The facts may justify criminal prosecution, yet call for some judgment on the appropriate charges and whether to charge all four officers identically.

There is no sign that the authorities are dragging their feet. The day after Floyd’s death, all four officers were fired, and the FBI launched an investigation. The mayor and the chief of police denounced what happened. If the facts are as bad as they appear in the videos, the officers — or at least the lead officer — would seem to have little defense.

Yet, while the wheels of justice are moving swiftly, that has not prevented opportunists from erupting into riots, looting, and arson. Sacking a Target for televisions and burning down local businesses is no way to get justice for anyone. It is, instead, likely to add to the misery of people living on the margins and already hard-hit by the shutdown of the economy. It is also not recommended social distancing. No excuses should be made, or accepted, for theft and destruction. The police and the National Guard can and should restore order, which is itself a precondition of justice.

The Editors comprise the senior editorial staff of the National Review magazine and website.

Most Popular

Stalin, Famine, and the New York Times

‘The world is being invaded by monsters, but I suppose you don’t want to hear about that,” Both clauses of that sentence are devastatingly true: The reference is equally to the horrors of the Soviet Union’s mass murders -- and to the West’s determination to turn its back to the monstrosity. The speaker ... Read More

Stalin, Famine, and the New York Times

‘The world is being invaded by monsters, but I suppose you don’t want to hear about that,” Both clauses of that sentence are devastatingly true: The reference is equally to the horrors of the Soviet Union’s mass murders -- and to the West’s determination to turn its back to the monstrosity. The speaker ... Read More
Elections

‘Slipping and Sliding down the Polls’

This is an excerpt from episode 233 of The Editors. Rich: So Jim Geraghty, I have the RealClearPolitics Biden versus Trump polling page up right here. I’m just going to read you some numbers going back to . . . This is a CNBC poll from the 10th and 12th of June. And I’m just going to run through to the ... Read More
Elections

‘Slipping and Sliding down the Polls’

This is an excerpt from episode 233 of The Editors. Rich: So Jim Geraghty, I have the RealClearPolitics Biden versus Trump polling page up right here. I’m just going to read you some numbers going back to . . . This is a CNBC poll from the 10th and 12th of June. And I’m just going to run through to the ... Read More

The Year of Stupid

It turned out that the novel coronavirus was only the second-most-infectious disease to spread through the U.S. this year. Satan’s Cupcake has, after all, been diagnosed in less than 1 percent of Americans. The not-so-novel imbecility virus is, on the other hand, ravaging the minds of everyone from news ... Read More

The Year of Stupid

It turned out that the novel coronavirus was only the second-most-infectious disease to spread through the U.S. this year. Satan’s Cupcake has, after all, been diagnosed in less than 1 percent of Americans. The not-so-novel imbecility virus is, on the other hand, ravaging the minds of everyone from news ... Read More
Elections

The Strategies of Dementia Politics

Joe Biden is tragically suffering a mental eclipse and sliding away at a geometric rate. Understandably, his handlers have kept him out of sight. He stays off the campaign trail on the pretext of the virus and his age-related susceptibility to COVID-19 morbidity. I say “pretext” without apology. Quarantine ... Read More
Elections

The Strategies of Dementia Politics

Joe Biden is tragically suffering a mental eclipse and sliding away at a geometric rate. Understandably, his handlers have kept him out of sight. He stays off the campaign trail on the pretext of the virus and his age-related susceptibility to COVID-19 morbidity. I say “pretext” without apology. Quarantine ... Read More
Politics & Policy

The Right to Choose What, Joe?

Joe Biden would like us to believe that Roe v. Wade is in peril. Nothing so energizes the abortion-advocacy wing of the Democratic Party (also known these days simply as the Democratic Party) like a press release or two gesticulating wildly about being the underdog. In reality, of course, the U.S. proudly ... Read More
Politics & Policy

The Right to Choose What, Joe?

Joe Biden would like us to believe that Roe v. Wade is in peril. Nothing so energizes the abortion-advocacy wing of the Democratic Party (also known these days simply as the Democratic Party) like a press release or two gesticulating wildly about being the underdog. In reality, of course, the U.S. proudly ... Read More