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Don’t let riots distract from focus of protests

Sometimes we wish we could “rewind” something we have just seen, because we can’t believe our eyes. What we thought we saw can’t be what really happened, we reason.

Dozens of times during the past week or so, the media has permitted us to take another look at what occurred March 25 in Minneapolis. There, a black man, George Floyd, was arrested for a non-violent offense. He was taken into custody by four police officers. He was handcuffed, then forced to lie prone on the street.

While two officers held him down, a third knelt over him, with his knee pressed hard onto Floyd’s neck, for nearly nine minutes. Floyd died.

Over an over again we have watched Floyd be killed by a police officer.

It did happen.

In cities throughout the nation, his death sparked protests and riots. Note that we differentiated between the two.

Rioting is unacceptable, in large measure because it too often harms members of neighborhoods and communities. Seldom does it harm the object of rioters’ anger. Burned police cruisers will be replaced. Small businesses damaged in civil unrest sometimes cannot be salvaged.

In truth, the rioters have been a godsend to the very people upon whom we need to be focusing our attention: the tiny minority of bigoted law enforcement personnel.

Protesters demanding justice for George Floyd — and for other victims of violent bigotry, both past and future — are finding their message lost in coverage of rioting.

That cannot be allowed to happen. Here is how we as a people can get back to the discussion about bigotry: The overwhelming majority of police officers, sheriffs’ deputies and other law enforcement agents really do believe in protecting and serving everyone.

It is they who must lead our conversation about race in America. It is they who must find the bad apples in their midst and rid their departments of them.

That will require great courage. Law enforcement personnel tend to adopt a bunker mentality, that an attack on one is an assault to be resisted by all.

Is this situation, that is not so. We as the American people respect most of those who protect us from evil. We want — actually, demand — only that they safeguard us from rogues in uniform, too.

It needs to happen. Let us hope and pray, then, that a few of those who protect and serve will step forward when we need their courage and dedication desperately.

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