Reasons for the Riots

Black men still swing from trees; White men still put them underknee.

Listen, fellow citizens. Listen.

A 1939 song of protest and rage resonates today, in 2020:

“Southern trees bear a strange fruit / Blood on the leaves and blood at the root / Black bodies swinging in the southern breeze / Strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees.” – Lyrics and music by Abel Meeropol, recorded by Billie Holiday in 1939. Listen.

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Judgements are being tossed about like tear gas canisters launched into crowds of people.

Photo of peaceful protester in Fargo, N.D.
Peaceful protester in Fargo, N.D., May 30, 2020

Peaceful protesters are good. Rioters are bad. Police are good. Police are bad. Police should use whatever force is necessary to clear protesters/rioters, including lethal force. Property damage is counter-productive. Police are instigating violent reactions. Left-wing extremists are agitating protesters. Right-wing extremists are agitating protesters. The extremists want chaos and revolution.

On and on.

As we share thoughts and opinions about the murder of George Floyd and who is doing what, and as we debate the good and bad of peaceful protests, violent riots and all the complex, related issues in the wake of Floyd’s death, I suggest we keep this gruesome pair of visions before our minds’ eyes:

Bloody tree, bloody black body swinging in the breeze.

Black man on the pavement, white police officer kneeling on his neck.

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There was a peaceful march in my city, Fargo, N.D., on the morning and afternoon of May 30. Black Lives Matter organized the protest to remember Floyd, a Black man murdered at the hands (knees) of White police officers in Minneapolis on Memorial Day, and to draw attention to ongoing, systemic racism and police brutality in the United States.

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