By Robert A. Vella
Fifty years ago, I witnessed and joined protests against societal injustices which had become too unbearable to ignore. My generation was being slaughtered in the jungles of Vietnam, on the city streets of America, on college campuses, and in the darkness of The South which defiantly refused to accept its profound guilt for institutionalized slavery and the bloody Civil War. Those protests of the tumultuous 1960s all occurred with a similar dynamic. We gathered in large groups in public places. We carried signs and spoke our minds. We demanded equitable change and that our voices be heard. But, we were not heard. Instead, the warmongers, wealth-hoarders, and racists of the entrenched establishment (“The Man,” in our lingo) wielded the heavy hand of the police and military against us. They shot tear gas at us. They beat us with batons. They fired real bullets at us, some of which found their mark. We retaliated. We burned buildings, we hurled rocks at our tormenters, and we kept up the pressure.
By the summer of 1974, the fruits of our sacrifice came to fruition. The Vietnam War ended, civil rights were being enforced, and our oppressor-in-chief Richard Nixon resigned in disgrace. It wasn’t a complete victory in any sense, but what we achieved was well worth the effort. While courage and determination had impelled us, it was morality and ethics which compelled us. As Martin Luther King, Jr. said:
“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
MLK also eloquently explained the violence we had resorted to even though he did not approve of violence:
“… a riot is the language of the unheard.”
And, that is precisely what occurred last night all across the country – the language of the unheard. Today’s generation finally got fed-up with a multitude of social injustices which have been slowly building in America since the Reagan administration. The videotaped murder of a helpless black man by a coldblooded white police officer on the streets of Minneapolis was just the spark that ignited this tinderbox amidst the backdrop of a devastating pandemic. It was destined to happen eventually, and I’m surprised that it took so long. Young people have borne the brunt of economic inequality after decades of neoliberal policies, and ethnic minorities are once again the target of overt racial discrimination since the “election” of a white supremacist president (Donald Trump). Now, with COVID-19 ravaging the nation, it all became too unbearable to ignore… just like fifty years ago. As they say, history repeats.
Here’s today’s news:
A global pandemic has now killed more than 100,000 Americans and left 40 million unemployed in its wake. Protests — some of them violent — have once again erupted in spots across the country over police killings of black Americans.
America’s persistent political dysfunction and racial inequality were laid bare this week, as the coronavirus death toll hit a tragic new milestone and as the country was served yet another reminder of how black people are killed by law enforcement in disproportionately high numbers. Together, the events present a grim tableau of a nation in crisis — one seared by violence against its citizens, plagued by a deadly disease that remains uncontained and rattled by a devastating blow to its economy.
“The threads of our civic life could start unraveling, because everybody’s living in a tinderbox,” said historian and Rice University professor Douglas Brinkley.
MINNEAPOLIS — Across the country, protesters took to the streets for a fourth day to express their anger over the death of George Floyd, a black man who died after a Minneapolis police officer kept his knee pressed into his neck for more than eight minutes.
In scenes both peaceful and violent, thousands of protesters chanted “No justice, no peace” and “Say his name. George Floyd.” They hoisted signs reading: “He said I can’t breathe. Justice for George.”
Former police officer Derek Michael Chauvin was arrested Friday in Minneapolis on charges of third-degree murder and manslaughter in connection with Floyd’s death.
Saturday morning, after 72 hours of unrest in Minneapolis, Gov. Tim Walz described the protest scenes as a “military operation.”
“This is not about George’s death. This is not about inequities that were real. This is about chaos being caused,” Walz said.
Fires, looting and destruction were not isolated to Minneapolis. In Detroit, one person attending a protest was shot to death. Atlanta saw the CNN Center attacked and its mayor pleaded for calm.
As protesters gather in Minneapolis, Atlanta, Charlotte, and other cities across the US, frustration continues to grow over the death of George Floyd.
“There needs to be change, officers need to be trained better,” one protester who was arrested in Atlanta told CNN’s Nick Valencia as he was being detained by police.
A lack of change and police reform are just some of the reasons people are enraged.
“This protest is not just about George Floyd, and when people are looking at these protesters — this rebellion that’s going on around the country — I hope they have some empathy because these people are going home. We are going home, black folk are going home, brown folk are going home and drinking dirty water, going to poor schools, not having access to quality care and so this is bubbling over,” said CNN political commentator Bakari Sellers.
WASHINGTON — An incendiary phrase used by President Trump in a tweet about the protests over George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis appears to have originated in a 1967 news conference held by a Miami police chief long accused of using racist tactics in his force’s patrols of black neighborhoods.
Mr. Trump, in a tweet after midnight on Friday, called the protesters in Minneapolis “thugs” and said: “When the looting starts, the shooting starts.” The phrase was used prominently by Walter E. Headley, Miami’s former police chief, in 1967 as he pledged a no-holds-barred response to a Christmas-season outbreak of violent crime in black neighborhoods that had left three people dead in attempted robberies.
WASHINGTON — President Trump on Friday vetoed a bipartisan resolution to overturn new regulations that significantly tighten access to federal student loan forgiveness, siding with Education Secretary Betsy DeVos over veterans organizations that say her rules will harm veterans bilked by unscrupulous for-profit colleges.
The veto will allow stringent rules for students seeking loan forgiveness to take effect on July 1. The rules toughen standards established under the Obama administration for student borrowers seeking to prove their colleges defrauded them and to have their federal loans erased. Even if some borrowers can show they were victims of unscrupulous universities, they could be denied relief unless they can prove their earnings have been adversely affected.
The resolution put Mr. Trump in a difficult political position. The veto saves Ms. DeVos from an embarrassing rebuke by her boss, but it puts the president at odds with dozens of veterans groups that helped persuade 10 Republican senators to vote to overturn a major domestic policy of the Trump administration. Veterans groups said the rule failed to protect military service members who have long been the targets of predatory tactics by colleges because of their lucrative G.I. benefits.