We’re all outside agitators at this point

The raging pandemic, our broken healthcare system, the ruined economy, the political corruption, the corporate greed, the militarized violence, the voter suppression, the dog-whistle presidential racism… it all just became too much.

We all knew America was a powder keg and, we all knew it had to blow up. Endless police or vigilante violence against Black and Brown people – executed while jogging, choked to death while selling cigarettes, shot while walking home from the corner store, while making a phone call in a grandmother’s backyard, while relaxing in bed, while eating ice cream on the living room couch… and on and on, until George Floyd’s final gasping breath.

It’s been going on throughout American history – our country was founded on stolen land with slave labor. But with a crude, stupid white nationalist in the White House, the fuse was lit, and it was only a matter of time before it blew.

Police line up to keep protesters off the freeway in San Francisco. Photo by Garrett Leahy

On Saturday night I was flipping between CNN and MSNBC and watching America in flames from coast to coast. The news anchors are appalled by the looting – I’m sure CNN’s Don Lemon frequents many of the luxury stores in New York and Los Angeles. But as H. Rap Brown once reminded us, violence is as American as cherry pie. Nothing significant changes in this country without violent protest.

Thank god for a few brave, honest TV journalists like MSNBC’s Ali Velshi, who was gassed and struck by a rubber bullet in the streets of Minneapolis tonight. As he reported, protesters were marching peacefully when they – and he – were attacked by Minnesota state police without warning. “We’re the media!” shouted Velshi and his crew to the heavily-armed cops. “We don’t care!” they shouted back. Former prosecutor Paul Butler called it what it was tonight in Minneapolis: a police riot.

And was that Minnesota Governor Tim Walz – who tried hard at first to be reasonable and measured – or his National Guard commander who suddenly showed up at a Saturday press conference in military camouflage gear while filling the skies above the Twin Cities with Blackhawk military helicopters? Was Walz declaring war on the people of his own state?

Meanwhile reporters in the streets were very upset by the language and vehemence of the protesters. MSNBC’s Richard Lui in New York was offended by some of the street chants, but when his crew turned their microphone on the crowd, they were simply shouting, “George Floyd! Say his name!” Shocking. Likewise, CNN’s Brian Todd was very put off by the vandalism of a statue of Philadelphia’s late mayor Frank Rizzo. Todd failed to mention that Rizzo, an ex-police chief, was a notorious racist whose attitude toward Black citizens was akin to that of Trump. WTF is Philadelphia’s civic center even doing with a statue of this pig?

But MSNBC also featured anchor Joshua Johnson, a young African American journalist who called on a variety of smart commentators to explain why the United States is now facing this terrible reckoning. Rashad Robinson, for instance, talked about why Black people – and many other exploited Americans – have hit their boiling points. Disappeared into the bowels of the prison system or forced into low-paying service jobs – both fates that carry higher risks of infection and death during the coronavirus crisis – many of these expendable Americans have been forced to work before it was safe.

And then they witness yet another unarmed, helpless African American brutally murdered by police in broad daylight on an American city street.

The raging pandemic, our broken healthcare system, the ruined economy, the political corruption, the corporate greed, the militarized violence, the voter suppression, the dog-whistle presidential racism… it all just became too much.

The ex-FBI meatheads and wimpy public officials on TV tonight kept complaining about “outside agitators” — as if protesters from the suburbs who feel compelled to drive into the city to join a march are some kind of sinister conspirators. We’re ALL outside agitators at this point -– locked out of the justice system, the political system, the economic board game, all of which are rigged for the one percent.

It’s a system that has its knee pressed heavily on our necks. And we’re finally standing up with fists clenched.