The family of George Floyd of blessed memory has retained an attorney, Benjamin Crump. On Monday, Crump reported the results of an independent autopsy of Floyd (“Justice: ‘A long road,’ ” June 2). The conclusion of this second autopsy is that Floyd died of asphyxia. After making the announcement, Crump shared these words with the listening public:
“I implore all of us to take a breath for justice, to take a breath for peace, to take a breath for our country and to take a breath for George.”
I hope we are all indeed breathing deeply, always, but especially now. Breath clears the body of toxins; breath renews. The Israelites under Pharaoh could not hear the words of hope offered by Moses because of “kotzer ruah” — shortness of breath (Exodus 6:9). They could not breathe, so they could not hear, so they could not hope. We have a choice. I hope we are appreciating the miracle of breath — how it sustains life, how it brings calm, how it creates spaciousness of spirit, so that each of us can act with compassion and wisdom, with intention and focus.
For all those suffering in this pandemic, and for George Floyd of blessed memory, let us all indeed take a breath for justice, for peace, for our country and for life itself.
Rabbi Shosh Dworsky, St. Paul
That was the wrong response, Kroll
It is always sad to see the police union president, Lt. Bob Kroll, emerge from his cave waving his “the world is against us” flag. It has to be a cave without Wi-Fi or TV for him to make statements like those in his letter to union members describing the events of the past week as something “everyone except [members of the union] refuses to call a riot.” Huh? We’re informed that he’s working with the union’s attorneys to help the fired officers get their jobs back. What exactly would it take for the union to acknowledge unacceptable behavior by a member? Apparently, to this union, there is no limit on police behavior.
Kroll criticizes the decision of Mayor Jacob Frey around abandoning the Third Precinct. Fair enough, but he then goes on to say, “The politicians are to blame and you are the scapegoats.” News flash, it wasn’t Frey with his knee on the neck of George Floyd.
The police elect their union leadership. If Kroll’s behavior doesn’t disgust the rank and file enough to replace him after this, we will know where they stand, and sadder days lie ahead.
Bill Mease, Minneapolis
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With the Minneapolis police union collective-bargaining agreement having expired on Dec. 31, the city has an opportunity to take the lead to amend those provisions of the contract that overly restrict its ability to discipline those officers who violate policy, procedures and practices established by the city and Police Department. The federation, if it truly cares about its members, should be willing to work with the city to identify and review the applicable provisions. The city is a signatory to the contact, as well as the union. Therefore, Minneapolis must also take ownership for agreeing to such restrictive provisions in first place. Likewise, the members themselves should demand such “justice” to protect the good cops. Yielding to political pressure by the federation is unacceptable and should be called out.
W.W. Bednarczyk, Minneapolis
The solution is not more of the same
While I feel that Gov. Tim Walz and Mayor Jacob Frey are trying their best to do the right thing in controlling the looting and arson, their response shows how poor our ability to cope with justified social unrest is. The only tool that Walz has to deal with looting and arson triggered by violent and overly militarized police is ... more violent and overly militarized police.
Watching the live footage of the behavior of the police on Sunday shows a force that is not at all ready to engage successfully with the population of the city. It attacks clearly credentialed journalists and people watching from their porch in the neighborhood. This looks like an attempt to keep citizens from seeing what is in progress and preserve police impunity. Will steps be taken to make accountable those who have attacked citizens without provocation? A more frightening question is: Is it even possible to hold these officers accountable?
The lack of planning to positively engage with even peaceful protesters, and elected leadership’s inability to exert meaningful control over law enforcement, is another illustration that our criminal enforcement system has become the tail that wags the dog of our city and our state.
Robert Goldman, Minneapolis
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It seems to me that public officials should not use the phrase “urban warfare” when referring to civil disturbance. Warfare involves soldiers who engage an enemy. Police officers are not soldiers. Their work is to protect and serve citizens, not to engage enemies. Using war language puts the wrong idea in the minds of all involved, and actions often follow ideas.
Duane Cady, Shoreview
Last week set gun control back
This is in response to the letter writer who expressed the view that, with fewer guns in private citizens’ hands, more effective, community-focused policing models could be developed (“Unworkable with so many guns,” June 1). I agree with his view that there are far too many guns in private citizens’ (both lawful and unlawful) hands. I also fully support the agenda of the recent protests to align policing methods and policies with the interests of the whole community, rather than just a privileged segment that benefits from the color of their skin.
Unfortunately, results are often just the opposite of best intentions. And I think the recent rioting, arson and looting — actions that some in the community support because they believe it’s the only way to get change — have taken us in just the opposite direction. The thunder you hear is the feet of thousands of folks racing to gun stores to buy a gun to protect themselves and their property because they perceive the police can’t provide that protection.
Here is their reasoning: If I’d been sitting in from of my small-business establishment with an AR-15 in my lap, how many looters would have wanted to confront me and my “little friend”?
More assault weapons in the hands of private citizens is the last thing we need! It is so unfortunate that a good cause has set gun control back to the point where true reform is now a pipe dream.
Nick Holman, Loretto
Those donations are needed but point to the larger problem
UnitedHealth Group has donated $10 million to help rebuild Lake Street (“UnitedHealth gives $10M to Floyd family, rebuilding,” June 2). Good. This money is sorely needed. But let’s put this in perspective. In 2019, David Wichmann, UnitedHealth’s CEO, received total compensation of more than $52 million, according to an April article in the Star Tribune. This is not to personally disparage Wichmann or any of UnitedHealth’s employees. They are merely doing their job, which is to make as much money as possible for UnitedHealth.
However, the fact that the leader of a company whose primary function is to filter the relationship between health care providers and health care recipients can earn compensation that strikes many as obscene is closely related to the anger and sense of grievance rending our country.
Connect the dots. An economic system that over the past few decades has been exquisitely designed to push the proceeds of productivity to the few while leaving most people in idle, or even moving backward, nourishes the forces that explode into riots.
Marty Koessel, Minneapolis
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