Guest Column

All over town, and throughout my social media feeds, friends and neighbors have been speaking out against the brutal murder of George Floyd (thank you), while also bemoaning the destruction of property happening across the country. We’ve heard the refrains:

“I don’t support what the police did to George Floyd, but why do protestors have to smash windows?”

“Vandalism dishonors George Floyd: by all accounts a peaceful person.”

“Violence obscures the message of the peaceful protesters.”

But what have respectful and rule-following protests achieved for the oppressed in our country? A government that fights to restrict health care for all. A government that taxes wages at a significantly higher rate than investments. A government that rigs electoral districts to protect their preferred political party. A government that enacts barriers to voting. A government hostile to unions and subservient to corporations. A government that tried to manipulate the census to undercount people of color. A government that hired Floyd’s killer and stood by him throughout his career until a video showed the world his true heart.

But for that video, we can be confident Floyd’s killer would not have been arrested. The video was sufficient to prompt criminal charges, but if the video were the end of it, no one in Central Oregon would be talking today about Floyd. No golfers on the course at Broken Top would be discussing the cold smirk on Floyd’s killer’s face as Floyd cried out for help. No anglers, fishing for bull trout on the Metolius, would tear up as they talked about how, in his dying voice, Floyd called out for his mother, a woman who had been dead for two years.

No, none of these conversations would be happening if all that resulted from Floyd’s death was a video. But that is not all that resulted. The collective voices of the forgotten men and women of our country rose like a phoenix, and they had much to say. They burned buildings, looted stores, and smashed stuff – lots of stuff. They got our country off of high center. They shook things up. They said loud and clear: No More. And we heard them. For the first time in decades, we heard them.

I’m as law-and-order as they get. But sometimes, some things are more important than a blind adherence to the rules. When the people in power have their knees on the throats of the working class of our country, and when pleas for justice and equality not only go unheeded, but are mocked, drastic measures have to be taken.

I’m proud to be a citizen of a country that was sparked by the Sons of Liberty who stood up to oppression by smashing the shipping crates of our oppressors in the Boston Tea Party. Samuel Adams, John Hancock and their patriot brothers broke the law that night in the harbor, and I’m glad they did. They were pushed to the breaking point, so they broke. Like Adams and Hancock, the youth in Minneapolis, Louisville, Atlanta and dozens of other cities had the courage and the dignity to break.

We heard them loud and clear. Now we need to respond to them. Yes, it’s time for the violence and vandalism to stop, and I urge protest leaders to call for this. But this stop cannot become an excuse to return to the status quo. This “stop” must be viewed as a pause: a pause for our nation’s leaders to open their ears, shut their mouths, and commit to being educated about the plight of the vast majority of Americans who struggle on a daily basis while not being given a fair shake.

If the violence is paused, our leaders listen, regular Americans rally around an agenda for the changes necessary to restore our middle class and provide equal opportunities, then George Floyd’s final words: “Don’t kill me” will be respected. No George, those officers didn’t kill you; they lit a fire in our country. The young protestors from shore to shore stoked it. And all of us responded. Now where are my patriots at?

John Hummel is Deschutes County District Attorney.

(10) comments

CardiacSpike

“A government that hired Floyd’s killer and stood by him throughout his career until a video showed the world his true heart…But for that video, we can be confident Floyd’s killer would not have been arrested.” – John Hummel, District Attorney

It has been said by friends of mine the shortest distance between immodesty and blatant narcissism is that space between DA Hummel and a microphone. Or in this instance between the District Attorney and his keyboard.

Aside from his appeal to “patriotism” as a cheap means of pandering to potential voters, and in light of his own in-office legal troubles (https://ktvz.com/news/2020/05/29/former-deschutes-deputy-da-plans-lawsuit-alleging-toxic-race-sex-discrimination/), Hummel deliberately confuses the federal government with the city government and its Human Resources department / Police Department in Minneapolis, Minnesota, for hiring the officer now charged in the death of George Floyd.

And as of yesterday, the three other officers present at the scene who did not, as they were trained and expected to, immediately intervene on behalf of Mr. Floyd to protect him.

It is likewise “show-boating” when DA Hummel assigns the term “killer” to (now) all four officers. Hummel took an oath to begin practicing law in Oregon. That oath reads as follows – “That I will faithfully and honestly conduct myself in the office of an attorney in the courts of the State of Oregon; that I will observe and abide by the Rules of Professional Conduct approved by the Supreme Court of the State of Oregon…I pledge fairness, integrity, and civility, not only in court, but also in all written and oral communications.”

I offer his written editorial does not reflect “fairness, integrity, and civility in written communication. Not at all. It is a grotesque appeal to the emotional argument on this tragedy and appealing to our emotions promotes wrong-thinking and wrong actions. Like rioting, looting, and burning. It also can and has led to more killing to include a growing number of store owners, police officers, innocent bystanders and those others of all ethnic and racial heritages.

As someone who grew up during the race and anti-war demonstrations and riots of the 1960s, who lived through the horror of the assassinations of John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Robert Kennedy, Malcolm X, William Louis Moore, Medgar Evans, Viola Gregg Liuzzo and other martyrs; who served in the U.S. military and in two wartime campaigns and whose life was saved by a black Army “Green Beret” during one of those campaigns; and who proudly wore a badge for ten long years on the streets doing “the hard right over the easy wrong” wherever police mis-conduct became an issue…I reject Mr. Hummel’s argument en toto.

Better he had used his name and office to urge immediate reform within his own office as well as Central Oregon law enforcement. To have commended those very professional and very humble law enforcement officers who represent the majority of “the Thin Blue Line” in his community. To have motivated and reassured the community he is elected to serve that the immediate future is one of constructive, meaningful, long lasting servant leadership, collaboration, and partnership.

It is the police officers, deputy sheriffs, and their leadership who are now daily kneeling with the peaceful demonstrators petitioning their government at all levels for Change. Perhaps DA Hummel might likewise humble himself as actions, frankly, speak louder than words.

Skittish

Excellent post. It is interesting how people, like Hummel, have come out using the current situation for personal gain and appears to be grandstanding. My assumption is the the vast majority of law enforcement are doing the right thing, and exceptional incidents are being used to smear them for personal gain. In today's editorial, it appears that the Bend Police department, based on the statistics, is well trained and performing well. There is no justification for people to be protesting based on our local law enforcement.

BuckeyeDuck

Your correct, there's no reason to protest based on the BPD. Missing the big picture and deflecting per usual.

BuckeyeDuck

Nice high horse post. Enjoyed the cherry picking of Hummel's statements while disregarding the truth of them. But that's the sign of a typical Trumpite. 10 years wearing a badge and always doing "the hard right"? I find that hard to believe. When you say humble, you better look in the mirror first.

Maverick

Sometimes you have to break a few eggs...

Skittish

Are the riots out of anger or out of opportunity? It's not clear exactly who the people are that are looting, or what their tru motivations are, so I can't find a way to justify it as being a way to get a point across.

gsr

I'd guess both. Once the rioting starts there's a lot of anger that finds an outlet. Surely the violence is counter productive in that it draws the wrong response ala vicious dogs/guns. Somehow Gandhi, King, Tutu were able to accomplish much without the violence.

Skittish

I would agree, the violent riots are not helpful. More innocent people are being harmed, so I just can't agree with Hummel on this one. Adding insult to injury is something to avoid.

BuckeyeDuck

Both, would be the answer to your question. As to the rest of your statement a visit to the Civil Rights Museum in Memphis would take care of the rest. Meanwhile, for a photo op with a raised Bible, peaceful demonstrators were gassed and attacked prior to curfew so that Mr. Trump could take a walk. I'm surprised the Bible didn't burst into flames from his touch.

Skittish

Thanks for your comment. I guess the point I am at is that there seem to be significant proportion of the people that are merely taking advantage of the opportunity to loot, consequently the rioting, at least for me, doesn't add motivation to address the racial issues that are present. A lot of innocent people are being victimized physically and financially, so I disagree with Hummel that this is serving any positive purpose. I get that he is saying that playing by the rules hasn't gotten anywhere, but I also disagree with that. Things have been improving over the years. Rioting is a blunt, "indiscriminate" tool that primarily punishes the innocent, and as such, likely won't yield the desired results.

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