When can black Americans expect equal justice?
On Wednesday, police in Maryland, assisted by police dispatched from Connecticut, took into custody white college student Peter Manfredonia, 23. He had fled Connecticut, crossing through multiple states after a violent spree that police say included two murders, home invasions and a kidnapping.
In seeking Manfredonia’s surrender, Connecticut State Police had earlier issued the statement, "We want you to be able to tell your story. We are here to listen to you.” He did not comply and, known to be armed, had to be hunted down. But in apprehending Manfredonia, police sought no street justice, did not rough him up. It was by the book.
Just two days earlier, on the streets of Minneapolis, George Floyd, a 46-year-old black man, was taken into custody on allegations he used a counterfeit $20 bill at a convenience store. A police statement alleges Floyd resisted. At 6-foot-6 with an athletic build, Floyd was an imposing man, but security cameras don’t show him offering any struggle as he is led in handcuffs to a squad car.
There the horror begins. A modern-day lynching of a black man. But instead of a rope, the tool of suffocation was the knee of Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, crushing down on Floyd’s neck as he lays prone, handcuffed and helpless. Three other officers crowded around Floyd, doing nothing to stop it.
For reasons unknown, the officers decided to make this man suffer. It continues, recorded by an onlooker, for eight excruciating minutes. Floyd pleading he can’t breathe, calling for his deceased mother, eventually, dying.
Two cases, one country, worlds apart.
African Americans only ask that they be allowed to inhabit the same world as their countrymen. A world in which they don’t have to fear an encounter with police can end in their demise. A world in which they can speak up for their constitutional rights without being taught a lesson. In other words, a world of equal treatment and color-blind justice.
Is this too much to ask? Seemingly, because this keeps happening. And speak with most any black American and you find it happens far more than the iPhone cameras capture. The pull-overs for not using a signal, for rolling a stop sign along a vacant street in the wrong neighborhood, for driving black in America. For being black in America.
All four Minneapolis officers were fired and on Friday Officer Chauvin was taken into custody and charged with murder. Perhaps there will be justice for George Floyd and his family. But past experiences suggest don’t bet on it.
Most police officers head off to their inherently difficult and dangerous jobs with the intent to serve and protect. For those who make every honest attempt to treat the public fairly and equally, this kind of brutal police behavior only makes their jobs more difficult.
But, America, we have a problem. There is no ignoring it. The double standards must end. The double standards that allowed Chauvin to walk free for a week when he should have faced arrest as soon as that video surfaced. The double standards that can lead to the by-the-book arrest of a fugitive white college student wanted for multiple murders, but end in the torturous death of a black man suspected of passing a bogus bill.
Don’t be distracted by the violence seen in the rioting in the streets of Minneapolis. That too is wrong. It deserves condemnation and cannot be tolerated. And it’s foolish. People destroying their own communities. And, remember, there were far more peaceful protestors. Most troubling are those who are eager to condemn the looters, but are silent about or downplay Chauvin's actions. That's racist.
The real issue is getting to a point where black Americans can depend on the police to protect and serve them fairly. Where they no longer feel hunted. Only that will quell the righteous and justified anger.
The Day editorial board meets regularly with political, business and community leaders and convenes weekly to formulate editorial viewpoints. It is composed of President and Publisher Tim Dwyer, Editorial Page Editor Paul Choiniere, Managing Editor Tim Cotter, Staff Writer Julia Bergman and retired deputy managing editor Lisa McGinley. However, only the publisher and editorial page editor are responsible for developing the editorial opinions. The board operates independently from the Day newsroom.
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