Clergy and Laity United for Economic Justice (CLUE), an economic justice organization, is appalled and outraged by the murder of George Floyd by police officers in Minneapolis. This act reveals the unbroken web of inequality and racism that African Americans in our country have endured for generations.
Every police shooting of a person of color draws attention to our nation’s lack of progress towards political and economic equality --- especially now, during a national pandemic, in which people of color are stricken by the virus in far higher proportions than the rest of the population.
Additionally, CLUE strongly disavows the shameful actions of the Minneapolis Police Department. They came out in phalanxes in full riot gear, firing, maiming with potentially deadly rubber bullets, firing tear gas into crowds of unarmed protesters, and chasing them down in violence on the pretext of minor causes. This violence against our neighbors is reprehensible and it must stop.
The police and officials have no legitimate justification for their own provocative presence and actions. These are spontaneous, grassroots protesters – many of whom are African American – expressing their understandable outrage and calling for justice over the open, ruthless murder of a helpless African American man – an all too common occurrence in our society that threatens each and every person perceived as “other.”
While we firmly believe in the sanctity of private property – and especially the sanctity of homes, houses of worship, and places of cultural importance – it does not compare or rise to the level of the sanctity of human life, all human life.
Many upholders of the system of white supremacy are now publicly justifying the follow-up to the egregious Minneapolis police killing of George Floyd by the equally appalling, organized Minneapolis police brutality of the last two nights against unarmed, mostly African American protesters.
They seek to discredit the public protest of this open murder by armed civil servants by the subsequent damage done to private property. They would sanction the ad hoc killing of African Americans like Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, Sandra Bland, Breonna Taylor, Freddie Gray, Marcus Golden, Jamar Clark, Philando Castile, and George Floyd, the last four by Minnesota police and in the case of Ahmaud Arbery, by looking the other way to the self-appointed “vigilante police.”
There can be no compromise of the sanctity of human life and no comparison of human life with inert property.
This provides obvious proof of an underlying racial contract of white supremacy in America. People of political power and wealth have recently privately funded anti-lockdown protests over coronavirus policies, that seek to keep all people safe and strategically placed these in various state capitols. These funded, mostly white protesters appeared in full camouflage military fatigues, armed with assault-weapons, sometimes carrying confederate flags and Nazi symbols. In some cases, they rushed and entered capitol buildings, shut down democratic processes, and aggressively pounded on windows and confronted police face to face.
Yet the police somehow remained silent and passive in the face of it all. No riot gear. No rubber bullets. No firing of tear gas canisters. No chasing down protesters. Just acceptance, even protester encouragement from elected officials, including our president.
We must bring about a new ideal of a livable social contract as a prescription for human justice and peace in our society. In the interim, we at CLUE call for three immediate actions.
- City and county councils, and state and federal representative bodies, should formally affirm in resolutions the sanctity of life (which many now speak of) over and above that of all other earthly inviolabilities, especially that of property.
- We call on elected and appointed officials to disallow – under all circumstances – police forces under their authority from confronting unarmed protesters who are denouncing police actions of killing an innocent man and calling for due process.
- Although it is a step in the right direction that Officer Derek Chauvin was arrested and charged with third-degree murder it does not go far enough, and we believe that all officers who were involved in the murder or George Floyd should also be brought to justice.
This week, the Jewish community is celebrating Shavuot, the holiday marking the anniversary of God’s revelation at Sinai, and the giving of the Torah. Shavuot is seven weeks after Passover. It is the final moment in the Exodus from Egypt. While Passover celebrates the physical salvation of the Israelite people, the leaving from the enslavement of the body, it took much longer to shed the pernicious ideology that legitimized enslaving people and oppression in the first place. Only when the Israelites “left” Egypt in the sense of shedding this framework of racist and xenophobic oppression and violence, could they hear God’s word speaking from the mountain.
In this country, at this moment, we are still walking towards Sinai. It is only when we shed the racist ideology that makes the lives of some people worth less than others, that we ever hear the word of God.