George Floyd died in vain. On the grim night of May 30, 2020, in La Mesa, California, that statement was challenged. At the intersection of Spring and Allison, one could find themselves entranced by the blood, sweat, and tear gas being put forth by their fellow citizens. Posters with the phrase “I can’t breathe” paced back and forth, as you can hear the shards of broken glass crack beneath your feet. A woman in the middle streets sang to the crowd with words of protest without caring for her vocal cords that were seemingly about to burst with cries. Pain was evident. There was a deep sense of both discomfort and liberation.
At around 9:45 p.m., I made my way through a crowd of protestors to see a border of cops in front of a burning vehicle. As the fire was breathing down the neck of every officer, they were blanketed with darkness, leaving only a silhouette of floating riot gear. I could not help but take deep breaths and fill my lungs with air from an atmosphere that was polluted with tension. Hiding behind the presence of other officers, I caught a glimpse of a single officer who was loading an arm to launch tear gas into the chanting crowds. While a wall of smoke was let loose, hysteria grew among protesters. Some continued their chants, while others wandered with water and first aid kits to help those who were wounded from the gas.
As the cloud of dominance began to dissipate, flames erupted out of the windows of the Chase bank that was behind us. Now we too felt fire breathing down our necks. The death of George Floyd did not appear to be like any other. Following the devastating news of Floyd, social media platforms were flooded with videos of other African Americans who found themselves forced onto the concrete while being met with fists and batons. It gradually became harder to rationalize the behavior of the boys in blue while some of their hands were tainted with red.
However, I believe these undeserving events of police brutality would not be evaded with the abolishment of the police departments. This misuse of authority speaks to how easily power can corrupt the morals of any individual who possesses it. It is not until law enforcement accomplishes the true power of de-escalation that there might be a shift toward a harmonious relationship with the public. Until then, there is an expectation that the nation will be forced to watch, yet again, the death of an unarmed person dying at the hand of an adrenaline-filled officer.
— Estevan Sudad Bahro, Spring Valley
Quakers have a long history of supporting the end of oppression and racism while promoting peaceful, non-militaristic means of solving societal problems.
We are called to condemn police violence against persons of color and confront racism and white privilege as we were called in the past to advocate against slavery. The murder of George Floyd is sadly one of many deaths occurring from systemic racism.
The Quaker service organization, American Friends Service Committee, states, “The brutal murder of George Floyd is the consequence of a racist system that disproportionately targets people of color for violence, imprisonment, and premature death.”
There are means of educating our peace officers and promoting peaceful conflict resolution.
We urge City and County officials to implement or strengthen these proven means of conflict de-escalation and peace officer review:
- Abolish the most harmful restraint practices such as chokeholds and strongholds.
- Institute talks with Communities immediately to de-escalate current riots and protests.
- Implement or revitalize citizen review committees of police incidents.
- Examine diversity and de-escalation practices within police and sheriffs’ offices.
- Stop militarized responses to conflict by peace officers.
Additionally, we recognize that police violence against persons of color is a problem rooted in white supremacy, and we join with people of all ethnicities and backgrounds to solve this problem. Inaction has allowed these deaths to continue. We ask you to reflect on these issues and their solutions. We ask you to take steps to implement new practices within our government. We ask you to monitor the systems responsible for community safety as if the lives of our friends, family and neighbors depended on it. They do.
— San Diego Friends Meeting