Ava DeSantis writes about Biden’s and Mayors’ failure to acknowledge the ongoing police violence on the ground.
On June 1st, a week after the tragic murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Democratic Presidential Candidate Joe Biden hosted a virtual roundtable with Mayors from across the country to discuss police brutality and the ongoing protests. On the Livestream was Mayor Lightfoot of Chicago, Mayor Garcetti of Los Angeles, CA, Mayor Bottoms of Atlanta, GA, and Mayor Carter of St. Paul, MN. Biden began the meeting by condemning the actions of officers who murdered Floyd, speaking of “the brutality of how [George Floyd] was treated” and “the way he was denied his humanity.” This act of police brutality, Biden argued “evoked the full weight of our history…how black lives have been devalued by our society.” Then he began to discuss the protests.
Biden described the riots occurring in many major US cities as “needless destruction” which is “not justified.” Biden, however, did not mention the violence occurring at the hands of the police or the national guard during these protests.
The omission of continued police violence
When discussing the police response to the protests, Mayor Bottoms of Atlanta, taking a lead from Biden’s omission of police violence towards protestors, described “images of police officers, walking alongside protestors, and taking a knee with protestors.”
Yesterday, in Atlanta, riot police fired volleys of tear gas towards demonstrators for breaking the city’s 9 pm curfew. Mayor Lightfoot of Chicago, IL, agreed with Biden’s assessment of the protestors and described “lawlessness” which needs to be separated from “righteous anger.”
The Mayor of Los Angeles, CA, Eric Garcetti, said of his own LAPD “I’ve never had so many conversations with police officers who were sick…and we have good cops.” On May 30th, in Los Angeles, Mayor Garcetti’s LAPD fired rubber bullets and tear gas into a crowd of peaceful protestors.
Failure to address the demands of protestors
Biden thanked Mayor Garcetti, and asked the Mayors “what are your folks in your [police] department saying to you about what we should be doing?” Mayor Lightfoot described two major areas which require reform in her Chicago police department: emphasizing training police officers and universal condemnation of the violence against George Floyd. Mayor Bottoms of Atlanta added that police officers should come from and be familiar with the communities they serve. Mayor Carter agreed, adding that his father was a police officer and observed firsthand the benefits of policing a community one is familiar with. Mayor Garcetti of Los Angeles agreed with the statements of his fellow Mayors, and gestured towards a call for increased accountability, referring to the importance of “how you police the police.”
Biden ended the roundtable by asking the Mayors for their “wish list” of help from the federal government, which they might have been able to request “if I were President.” The Mayors agreed that they all required increased funding for small businesses, who are not receiving adequate relief during the COVID-19 crisis. Mayor Garcetti added that there should be increased federal funding for programs to address the “trauma that every child in America who is black, and of colour feel.”
The roundtable discussion illuminated the gap between the demands of activists, their cities’ Mayors, and the Biden Campaign. While the Black Lives Matter movement, demands “a national defunding of police,” Biden failed to address police violence beyond the murder of George Floyd and no one on the call mentioned ongoing police violence in response to the Black Lives Matter actions.
It may be unlikely for the police to earn community trust, or for Presidential Candidate Biden to earn the trust of young, politically active voters, until leaders begin to ask “what do the protestors want?” instead of “what do the folks in your [police] department want?”