What began as protests of grief and yes, rage, over the death of yet another black man in police custody has morphed in Minnesota. State leaders say it's clear that, as has happened in the past, malevolent forces are exploiting the moment to sow destruction, chaos and division for their own purposes.
We all must work to stop them. The collective anguish and pain over what happened is ours, Minnesota. It is not to be twisted by those hellbent on destruction.
There is urgent work to be done if we are to, at long last, address the injustice and inequity that underlies all of this. But even more urgent is the need to preserve what we have — precious community assets that others would destroy. The list of properties damaged is laden with immigrant- and minority-owned small businesses; grocery stores; gas stations; banks; a post office; a library.
The death of George Floyd must be mourned and should be the catalyst for positive change so long overdue. It cannot be made into a vehicle for destruction of the very communities in need of help. Tellingly, some of those arrested have come from well outside this state: Florida, Michigan, Illinois, Missouri — even Alaska.
Even amid this mayhem, we are seeing the best in our communities. In the daylight, helpers are turning out in force, armed with brooms, dustpans and trash bags to clear the rubble. They're donating money, distributing food and medical care, helping to board up businesses. But when night falls, other forces are moving in.
"The absolute chaos — this is not grieving," Gov. Tim Walz said during a Saturday news conference. "And this is not making a statement [about an injustice] that we fully acknowledge needs to be fixed. This is dangerous."
We will come through this time together, but we must make it count for something. One good place to start: a prescient report on policing and deadly force produced earlier this year by Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison and Department of Public Safety Commissioner John Harrington.
One of the many needed recommendations: Create an independent state investigative unit within the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension to examine cases in which officers used deadly force. The result of months of work and statewide listening sessions, the report got too little attention upon its release despite news coverage and an endorsement by the Star Tribune Editorial Board.
Minnesota has another chance to rectify that. As Ellison said in a news conference last week, "At some moment, sadly, George Floyd will be laid to rest … the criminal and civil-rights process will be concluded. But will we have made any real substantive changes, or will we just be setting ourselves up for it to happen all over again?"
America has been reminded anew of the terrible toll that is exacted when needed change stalls out. If justice does not come, revenge may fill the void. Some, tired of waiting, want to defund the police altogether. But abolishing law enforcement is not the answer, unless we want a return to frontier justice, where self-appointed vigilantes create their own order.
No. Law enforcement must be reformed in a way that serves all of us. No more "warrior" training. No more militarization. Our cities need peacekeepers and peacemakers who make "serve and protect" a bedrock value, while keeping the streets safer for citizens and themselves.
As this edition goes to press late Saturday, it's unknown what the hours ahead will bring. The military convoys and show of force as evening fell on our once-peaceful streets was sobering, but necessary to restore order. The damage already wrought is horrific. It cannot be allowed to grow.
Minnesotans can choose to reject violence and demand positive change. As St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter said on Saturday: "We will not accept George Floyd's death. And we will not accept the destruction of our communities, either."