The disturbing circumstances and events surrounding the death of George Floyd have affected all of us. The police officer, Derek Chauvin, is seen on video pressing his knee down into Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes despite Floyd pleading with the officer that he couldn’t breathe. It is hard to watch. Derek Chauvin and anyone else involved in Mr. Floyd’s death must be held responsible for their actions. All Americans demand justice.
Equal justice under law. Those are the words engraved on the front of the United States Supreme Court Building, and they are the words that we must live by and honor in the United States. Just as the people responsible for the death of George Floyd must be held responsible, so too must those who are hijacking the peaceful protests and replacing them with violence and looting. In the wake of Floyd’s killing, American citizens exercised their constitutionally protected right to assemble and redress their grievances. Unfortunately, there were bad actors who took this opportunity to loot, riot, kill, and destroy. While this may only be a small percentage of the protesters, it is still undeniably widespread. People in New York City looted stores, stuffing electronics and other catchy finds into garbage bags. In Oakland, they set a car dealership on fire. In Los Angeles, they stole designer clothing. In Minneapolis—where this all began—looters destroyed a Target and set a police station ablaze.
Here in Missouri, rioters took innocent lives. David Dorn, a 77-year-old retired St. Louis police captain who served 38 years on the force, was checking on his friend’s shop when he was shot and killed by looters. He was found dead on the sidewalk in front of the ransacked store. Even more disturbing, his murder was streamed in real-time on Facebook Live. Tragically, his death was not an isolated incident. At least a dozen people, many of them African Americans, have been killed during the chaos that has consumed our cities over the past week. These deaths are just as painful, and just as heartbreaking, as the death of George Floyd. The death, destruction, and pure debauchery that has engulfed American cities cannot be allowed to continue—the rule of law must be restored.
This week, I am reminded of the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. Hate multiplies hate, violence multiplies violence, and toughness multiplies toughness in a descending spiral of destruction.” We cannot allow the violence and lawlessness to spiral out of control and further overwhelm our country. We must enforce the law and restore order to our streets, but we must also demand equal justice. While the events of the past week have shocked our national conscience, they are also not unheard of in our nation’s history. After Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated on April 4, 1968, there were widespread riots that swept across the nation. Just as the challenges seemed insurmountable then, we can and will overcome the obstacles we face today.