Bush and Obama address a grieving nation, as protests inspire change
“We love our neighbors as ourselves when we treat them as equals, both in protection and compassion,” former President George W. Bush wrote.
Days of national protest have raised hard questions about race, equality, and their relationship to law enforcement. Some of those questions are starting to get answered.
The protests were sparked by the alleged murder of George Floyd, a black man, and a viral cellphone video that captures his death under a white Minneapolis police officer’s knee.
After more than a week of unrest, the prosecutor has announced new charges in Floyd’s death, as Twin Cities institutions began to sever relations with the Minneapolis Police Department, a Confederate statue was felled outside the nation’s capital, and former presidents called for a national awakening and political change.
Cutting ties with police
Several Minnesota institutions have announced their intent to cut or reduce ties with the Minneapolis Police Department. The Minneapolis Public Schools board voted unanimously to end its decadeslong resource officer contract with the police department on Tuesday, Minnesota’s Star Tribune reports. The University of Minnesota and the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board also said they will sever some of their relationships with city police.
“I value people and education and life. Now I’m convinced — based on the actions of the Minneapolis Police Department — that we don’t have the same values,” school board chairwoman Kim Ellison told the Star Tribune.
The unanimous decision came after the Minneapolis Police Department fired four police officers involved in Floyd’s death. Former officer Derek Chauvin — who pinned his knee against Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes — was charged Wednesday with second-degree murder, in addition to his previous charges of third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.
The other three former officers who were at the scene were also charged Wednesday with aiding and abetting murder, according to The New York Times.
Pleading for his life, Floyd told the officer “I can’t breathe,” a message that been used at police brutality demonstrations across the nation.
A statue comes down
A statue of a Confederate soldier that stood in Alexandria, Virginia, for 135 years was removed from an intersection in the city’s Old Town neighborhood on Tuesday, NBC 4 Washington reported.
The statue — owned by the United Daughters of the Confederacy — was scheduled to be moved in July, but was removed by the owners early because of recent national protests, according to NBC 4.
“Alexandria, like all great cities, is constantly changing and evolving,” Mayor Justin Wilson said on Twitter.
Alexandria, like all great cities, is constantly changing and evolving. pic.twitter.com/CZTjlOkpfT— Justin Wilson (@justindotnet) June 2, 2020
Former presidents speak out
In a statement from President George W. Bush, the former Republican president said he and Laura were “anguished by the brutal suffocation of George Floyd and disturbed by the injustice and fear that suffocate our country.”
“It remains a shocking failure that many African Americans, especially young African American men, are harassed and threatened in their own country,” Bush wrote on Tuesday.
The 43rd president said the only way to reflect on “this tragedy, in a long series of similar tragedies,” was “to listen to the voices of so many who are hurting and grieving.”
“Those who set out to silence those voices do not understand the meaning of America — or how it becomes a better place,” said Bush. “We love our neighbors as ourselves when we treat them as equals, both in protection and compassion.”
I wrote out some thoughts on how to make this moment a real turning point to bring about real change––and pulled together some resources to help young activists sustain the momentum by channeling their energy into concrete action. https://t.co/jEczrOeFdv— Barack Obama (@BarackObama) June 1, 2020
Former President Barack Obama shared his thoughts on how Americans could capitalize on the current moment to “bring about real change,” in a Medium post on Monday.
Obama encouraged both protesters and law enforcement to be peaceful during demonstrations, and called for political action at the state and local levels of government to reshape the criminal justice system.
“So the bottom line is this: if we want to bring about real change, then the choice isn’t between protest and politics. We have to do both,” Obama wrote. “If, going forward, we can channel our justifiable anger into peaceful, sustained and effective action, then this moment can be a real turning point in our nation’s long journey to live up to our highest ideals.”
“Let’s get to work,” the former president concluded.