Barack Obama, former president, on the riots and protests:
“As millions of people across the country take to the streets and raise their voices in response to the killing of George Floyd and the ongoing problem of unequal justice, many people have reached out asking how we can sustain momentum to bring about real change. Ultimately, it’s going to be up to a new generation of activists to shape strategies that best fit the times. But I believe there are some basic lessons to draw from past efforts that are worth remembering.
First, the waves of protests across the country represent a genuine and legitimate frustration over a decades-long failure to reform police practices and the broader criminal justice system in the United States. The overwhelming majority of participants have been peaceful, courageous, responsible, and inspiring. They deserve our respect and support, not condemnation — something that police in cities like Camden and Flint have commendably understood.
On the other hand, the small minority of folks who’ve resorted to violence in various forms, whether out of genuine anger or mere opportunism, are putting innocent people at risk, compounding the destruction of neighborhoods that are often already short on services and investment and detracting from the larger cause.
I saw an elderly black woman being interviewed today in tears because the only grocery store in her neighborhood had been trashed. If history is any guide, that store may take years to come back.
So let’s not excuse violence, or rationalize it, or participate in it. If we want our criminal justice system, and American society at large, to operate on a higher ethical code, then we have to model that code ourselves.”
This is how a President responds.
Joe Biden, on the murder of George Floyd, the riots, and America:
“I won’t traffic in fear and division. I won’t fan the flames of hate. I’ll seek to heal the racial wounds that have long plagued our country, not use them for political gain. I’ll do my job and I’ll take responsibility — I won’t blame others. … Is this what we want to pass on to our children and grandchildren — fear, anger, finger-pointing, rather than the pursuit of happiness? Incompetence and anxiety, self-absorption, selfishness? Or do we want to be the America we know we can be, the America we know in our hearts we could be and should be?”
And this is how a President responds. He isn’t sending out the dogs or tear gas or the army; he’s sending out hope.
Terence Floyd, brother of George Floyd, calling on the violence to end, and the protests to be peaceful:
“I do feel like it’s overshadowing what’s going on. Because like I said, [George] was about peace. He was about unity. But the things that [are] transpiring now, they may call it unity, but it’s destructive unity. It’s not what he was about. That’s not what my brother was about. It’s okay to be angry, but channel your anger to do something positive, or make a change another way. Because we’ve been down this road already. We’ve been down this road already. He would want us to seek justice the way we’re trying to do. But channel it another way. The anger, damaging your hometown, it’s not the way he’d want.”
Protest. March. Shout. Scream. Cry. Kneel.
But if you’re looting, you’re not a protester, you’re a common thief, and you aren’t helping.
Killer Mike, Run the Jewels rapper and social activist, urging violent protesters to replace their rage with force at the voting booth.
“I am the son of an Atlanta police officer. My cousin is an Atlanta city police officer. And my other cousin an East Point police officer. And I got a lot of love and respect for police officers. I watched a white police officer assassinate a black man, and I know that tore your heart out. I am duty-bound to be here to simply say that it is your duty not to burn your own house down for anger with an enemy. It is your duty to fortify your own house so that you may be a house of refuge in times of organization. It is time to beat up prosecutors you don’t like at the voting booth. It is time to hold mayoral offices accountable, chiefs and deputy chiefs. I’m mad as hell. “I woke up wanting to see the world burn yesterday, because I’m tired of seeing black men die. He casually put his knee on a human being’s neck for nine minutes as he died like a zebra in the clutch of a lion’s jaw. So that’s why children are burning it to the ground. They don’t know what else to do. And it is the responsibility of us to make this better right now. We don’t want to see one officer charged, we want to see four officers prosecuted and sentenced. We don’t want to see targets burning, we want to see the system that sets up for systemic racism burnt to the ground.”
Once again … Protest. March. Shout. Scream. Cry. Kneel.
Trevor Noah, The Daily Show, on the murder of George Floyd, the protests in Minneapolis, the dominos of racial injustice and police brutality:
“If you felt unease watching that Target being looted, try to imagine how it must feel for black Americans when they watch themselves being looted every single day. Because that’s fundamentally what’s happening in America. Police in America are looting black bodies. Imagine to yourself, if you grew up in a community where every day someone had their knee on your neck, where every day someone was out there repressing you every single day. You tell me what that does to you as a society…and you know that this is happening because of the color of your skin.”
We’re almost 250 years into this country and we still treat ‘others’ as less than.
How long will it take for us to learn that we are all more alike than we are different?
Anderson Cooper, on _____ teargassing peaceful protesters outside the White House so he could go to, ahem, church:
“Wow. We are in trouble. He was hiding in a bunker and embarrassed that people know that. So what does he have to do? He has to stick police on peaceful protesters so he can make a big show of being the little big man walking to a closed down church. He always talks about how the world is laughing at the governors right now, [but] the only person the world is laughing at is the President of the United States. And this event, if it wasn’t so dangerous and disgusting, it would be funny because it’s just so low rent and sad. We are witnessing a failure of presidential leadership at a time when this country, when we the people, need it more than ever, perhaps in our lifetime.”
He cares not about another dead black man. He only cares about a photo op for his base of faux-Christian racists.
Kamala Harris, Democratic Senator from California, denouncing ____ for sowing “hate and division” and using the Bible as a prop.
“I think that Donald _____ has combined the worst of George Wallace with Richard Nixon. You know, when he talks about ‘end it now’ and then ‘dominate the streets,’ you know, dominate, it literally—one iteration of dominate is about supremacy and that’s what [_____] is about. Let’s be clear about it, he has spent full time from the time he ran for president throughout his term in office, full time trying to sow hate and division among the American people. What he is right now doing in terms of invoking the American military, threatening the American people with the American military, the use of the American military against its own people. He is not a commander in chief. He is a divider. He is clearly scared. And—and he cannot meet this moment that he has partly created because of his inability to understand the pain and the suffering. Right now America is raw. Her wounds are exposed. And instead of having a president who understands it, who empathizes, who lifts up the spirits and acknowledges the pain, we have someone who chooses to hold up the Bible like a prop for his own political gain.”
He’s a racist. There is no heart. There is no soul. There is no compassion. No thought about this crisis other than how it makes him look.
And he looks, and sounds, like a racist.
Jimmy Kimmel, talk show host, blasting _____ for inflaming violence amid the unrest in the wake of the murder of George Floyd:
“Unfortunately, this is the loop we get stuck in: It goes from ‘it isn’t right to kill an unarmed man’ to ‘well it also isn’t right to loot and set fires and attack the police, too’ [to] ‘but the police are attacking us and killing us over and over and nothing changes’ to ‘well that needs to be settled by the law’ to ‘well an officer of the law just killed another unarmed man.’ And so on. Last night there were senseless acts of violence that were brought on by a senseless act of violence. And it just keeps going in a loop. Our disgusting excuse for a president, Mr. Tough Guy Donnie Bone Spurs, says ‘I know what I’ll do. I’ll make this worse [referring to _____’s “when the looting starts, the shooting starts” racist Tweet] I especially want to pose this question to older people who have seen this before in this country, who have lived this nightmare of race riots already, in the ’60s and ’70s, ’80s, now. Is this who you want leading us? A president who clearly and intentionally inflames violence in the middle of a riot to show how tough he is? A commander in chief who threatens to put members of our military in the position of having to shoot a fellow American on sight? I don’t care what you are, right, left, Republican, Democrat. Enough is enough. We’ve got to vote this guy out already. And we need to work on this problem we have, this blatant double standard because when you stand in front of the flag, you put your hand on your heart and you pledge allegiance with ‘liberty and justice for all,’ we don’t have that, ‘for all.’ I mean, I have it, a lot of you have it, but it’s not for all.”
“Sixty-five years have passed, and I still remember the face of young Emmett Till. It was 1955. I was 15 years old—just a year older than him. What happened that summer in Money, Mississippi, and the months that followed—the recanted accusation, the sham trial, the dreaded verdict—shocked the country to its core. And it helped spur a series of non-violent events by everyday people who demanded better from our country. Despite real progress, I can’t help but think of young Emmett today as I watch video after video after video of unarmed Black Americans being killed, and falsely accused. My heart breaks for these men and women, their families, and the country that let them down — again. My fellow Americans, this is a special moment in our history. Just as people of all faiths and no faiths, and all backgrounds, creeds, and colors banded together decades ago to fight for equality and justice in a peaceful, orderly, non-violent fashion, we must do so again. To the rioters here in Atlanta and across the country: I see you, and I hear you. I know your pain, your rage, your sense of despair and hopelessness. Justice has, indeed, been denied for far too long. Rioting, looting, and burning is not the way. Organize. Demonstrate. Sit-in. Stand-up. Vote. Be constructive, not destructive. History has proven time and again that non-violent, peaceful protest is the way to achieve the justice and equality that we all deserve. Our work won’t be easy—nothing worth having ever is—but I strongly believe, as Dr. King once said, that while the arc of the moral universe is long, it bends toward justice.”