Opinion: For some, protests are just an excuse for chaos

Damage and cleanup after protests against the death in Minneapolis police custody of George Floyd in New York
A man walks past a boarded up Macy’s store in Herald Square after it was looted and damaged during demonstrations against the killing of George Floyd.
REUTERS/Mike Segar

Over the past week we have seen riots and crime — not just peaceful protests — in response to the killing of George Floyd. To be clear, the officer who held his knee on Floyd’s neck and killed him was rightfully charged with murder.

Unfortunately, some have taken this tragic event as license to unleash chaos on our streets by burning down and looting stores, destroying public property, and attacking police. Perhaps even worse, most Democratic elected officials have instinctively blamed our police officers for these horrifying acts of violence and have even expressed some solidarity with these criminals. 

Last weekend, the Barclays Center was the scene of violence as protests lasted through the night. Democrats, including Mayor Bill de Blasio and southern Brooklyn Councilman Justin Brannan once again placed the blame on cops.

Those who attacked NYPD officers and vehicles should be arrested and fully prosecuted. However, in today’s New York City, we know this will not happen. This is why it was welcome news that the federal government has taken the case of the protesters accused of throwing Molotov cocktails at police vehicles.

Mayor de Blasio tweeted during the night of unrest by the Barclays Center, “We have a long night ahead of us in Brooklyn. Our sole focus is de-escalating this situation and getting people home safe. There will be a full review of what happened tonight.” Earlier, he announced that he wanted cops using a “light touch” with the demonstrators.

Brannan, similar to his former boss, tweeted, “Tonight was a catastrophe. People are in pain, on edge. We were told the Police Department was given orders to de-escalate & respect peaceful protest. Instead we got an army of cops in riot gear, protestors assaulted, legislators maced…This is not the city anybody wants.”

Perhaps the councilman and Hizzoner should stand shoulder to shoulder with the cops facing those attacking them so they can lead the “de-escalation” efforts. 

Of course, neither acknowledged the experience of Lt. Robert Corbett, who had a brick thrown at his face causing him to lose a tooth, or attacks on other officers including one who was punched in the head with brass knuckles. Also, not a peep about the attempted murder of the cops inside the NYPD van.

Obviously, those that targeted police with bricks, brass knuckles, and Molotov cocktails had no interest in “de-escalation.” 

It is a sad state of affairs that one can get arrested today for opening a business but not for looting one. It is also ironic that most Democratic leaders have lost all of their concern for social distancing during these mob protests.

One notable exception among Democrats is Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, a black woman, who said, “What I see happening on the streets of Atlanta is not Atlanta. This is not a protest.  This is not in the spirit of Martin Luther King Jr. This is chaos. We are no longer talking about the murder of an innocent man. We’re talking about how you’re burning police cars on the streets of Atlanta, Georgia.”

It would be nice if our Democratic elected officials took some notes from her about responsible leadership. 

Bob Capano has worked for Brooklyn Republican and Democrat elected officials, and has been an adjunct political science professor for over 15 years. Follow him on twitter @bobcapano.