For five days, beginning May 26, Minneapolis was torn to shreds and nearly burned to the ground by an angry mob demanding “justice” for the murder of George Floyd.
On May 25, Mr. Floyd was killed by Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin while he subdued Floyd during an arrest. The three other police officers with Chauvin either stood by and watched (in one case), or assisted Chauvin (in the case of two others), by holding Floyd face-down on the pavement as Chauvin pressed his knee on Floyd’s neck. Chauvin pressed on Floyd’s neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds, while two other officers kneeled on his back, eventually killing him. Of that time, according to the criminal complaint filed against Chauvin, he kept his knee on Floyd’s neck for two minutes and 53 seconds after Floyd became unresponsive.
On Tuesday, May 26, the four officers were summarily fired by Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey, who called for their immediate arrest and prosecution. The next day, Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman stated that an investigation into the matter was ongoing, but no charges were announced at that time. He didn’t say no charges would be brought. In the meantime, the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul burned for four consecutive nights.
Mobs of out-of-control rioters smashed windows, looted stores and burned buildings all along Lake Street in Minneapolis and on University Avenue in St. Paul. Local news reports claim that as many as 360 businesses were damaged, stripped to the bare walls by looting, or had doors and windows smashed. At least businesses 66 burned to the ground. Still, others suffered extensive water, smoke or fire damage.
The Minneapolis riots sparked similar riots in major cities throughout the nation. All of this is done in the name of “justice for George Floyd.” And the carnage began just one day after the shocking video of Floyd’s murder circulated on social media.
How is it that burning buildings and destroying the businesses of innocent citizens serves the interests of justice? One jewelry store in Minneapolis had its windows and doors smashed, all of its display cases were destroyed, and all inventories that were not locked in a safe were spirited away by looters. There is no allegation I’ve seen indicating that the jewelry store owners were involved in killing Mr. Floyd. Indeed, not a single private citizen was involved in the death of Floyd. And yet, private citizens, who live and work in the very communities ravaged by the violence, are the ones paying the price arbitrarily inflicted by the mob.
This is exactly why “mob justice” is not justice at all; it’s merely lawlessness on a grand scale.
Justice is the deliberate process by which the law renders to every person his due. Justice is thus righteousness imposed through the specific operation of law. Conceptually, justice and virtue are on the same level. Virtue addresses the idea of good over evil at a personal level. Justice applies such principles in connection with our social intercourse with others.
Under no moral or legal definition does rioting or lawlessness on any scale rise to the level of “justice for George Floyd.”
One of the most important legal concepts in American law – and one which distinguishes American law from that of monarchal and dictatorial totalitarian regimes – is the concept of “due process of law.” This idea, expressed in the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, implies that justice (as defined above) is achieved through a careful, deliberative process, not through arbitrary force. Due process involves notice of the charges or claims, an opportunity to respond and present evidence, and the right to a review of the decision. Anything short is a denial of justice.
Under no circumstances does due process contemplate riots, looting and burning. Indeed, these actions are antithetical to due process. They directly subvert the rule of law and every corresponding element of social order. If all legal decisions were made by the mob, no person would or could be safe in his person or property. Anarchy would reign, as was the case in the Twin Cities last week.
Justice for Mr. Floyd and his family must come through the legal process, and only through the legal process. On May 27, County Attorney Freeman declared that an investigation was underway and that it will be pursued carefully and thoroughly. He stated it precisely. A full and complete investigation must be conducted before charges are levied in order that all the facts are brought to light, and because in a criminal case, the state has the burden to prove its case to a jury beyond a reasonable doubt.
Now you might ask, “How can there be any reasonable doubt when we have the video?”
Perhaps that’s enough; perhaps not. If I were prosecuting this case, I would sure want to see the video from all the officers’ body cameras. And while we’re at it, why not security video from the surrounding stores? What will this tell us about George’s behavior versus that of the officers? And if I were defending the officers, I would want to see the same footage for the same reasons. And what about toxicology reports and definitive evidence on the cause of death? All of these factors – and others – are vital to determining not only the level of culpability of the officers, but the ability to prove to a jury beyond a reasonable doubt that one or more of the officers are criminally liable for Floyd’s death.
That’s why we wait for investigative reports prepared by medical and forensic experts, and that’s why we have trials – as a means of searching for and determining the truth, which is an essential and indispensable element of true justice. Mobs don’t care about the truth, and they don’t care about the facts. If they did, there would be no such thing as a mob in the sense of what we see playing out around the nation.
Indeed, as the investigative process unfolded in Minneapolis, Chauvin was charged with third-degree murder and was taken into police custody late last week. And as of June 3, the other three officers involved were charged. They are charged with aiding and abetting murder and with second-degree manslaughter. The other three officers were charged after the Hennepin County Medical Examiner’s autopsy report revealed that Floyd died as follows: “Cardiopulmonary arrest complicating law enforcement subdual, restraint, and neck compression. Manner of death: Homicide.” Also on June 3, charges against Chauvin were upgraded to second-degree murder.
It is this kind of deliberative process that leads to justice. For example, in 2017, an unarmed woman was shot and killed by a Minneapolis police officer. He shot her at point-blank range from inside his vehicle as she approached the car seeking help. In April 2019, after a full investigation and trial, the officer was convicted of murder. He’s in jail as I write.
That is justice. The perpetrator himself was punished for the unlawful act that he alone committed. There was no riot in Minneapolis after the shooting. There was no outrage over the “waste of time” involved with an investigation. There were no chants of “No Justice, No Peace” throughout the city as businesses were destroyed by looting mobs.
We live in civilized society, not in a jungle. We are human beings capable of thought and reason, not animals. If we are unwilling to follow the path of due process to achieve true justice, we are no better than wild savages who bludgeon their way to their goals.
Perhaps the worst part of all this is that the degeneration of civilized society always leads to tyrannical government. There’s no exception to this rule. That, frankly, is why those determined to destroy our constitutional Republic always foment social discord, racial tension, chaos and anarchy – because that’s when people cry out for more government control – to “protect” them.
That’s also why John Adams explained that, “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” People who cannot or will not respect the lives, liberty and property of others cannot live in freedom. The further we drift from the biblical model of social intercourse, the more likely we are to wake up one day to find our freedoms have been lost to arbitrary government on the promise of “protecting us from the mob.”
Romans 12:21 says, “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” Burning, looting and pillaging are exactly the wrong responses to the evil perpetrated by the Minneapolis police against Mr. Floyd. The proper response is to follow the rule of law – that which is good – to bring true justice to Floyd’s killers.
Article posted with permission from Dan Pilla
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