A burned Union Bank that was still smoldering after a night of violence in La Mesa is reflected in water from fire hoses. Photo by Chris Stone

Thanks to a Minneapolis cop against whom 17 previous complaints were filed in recent years, the “usual suspects” hit the streets again when George Floyd died under the cop’s knee.

More than 4,000 people were arrested nationally over the weekend. A dozen governors ordered 10,000 National Guardsmen to patrol streets in armored vehicles while President Donald Trump hid in the White House underground bunker.

Buildings burned to the ground, people were injured and some died. America burned.

Welcome to June 2020 five months before Americans might retire Donald J. Trump after one term.

Trump sees 35 million unemployed Americans sitting at home watching thousands of fellow Americans gather peacefully in daylight then morph into looters, arsonists and rioters when the sun goes down.

More people have died from the coronavirus in four months than died in 70 years from the wars in Korea, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan. Some Americans have refused to wear face masks because they think the entire coronavirus epidemic is a hoax. Some support people who disobey lockdown orders and go to churches so pastors can collect Sunday dollars.

The Supreme Court has been asked to set aside lockdowns of churches and by 5-4 ruled against a San Diego evangelical church that petitioned to disobey the Governor of California’s ban on large gatherings.

Older Americans, like me, part of the most vulnerable population cohort endangered by the coronavirus, are fine with staying home. But what of those unfortunate people in medical facilities and rest homes that the virus seems to have targeted? Yes, big numbers of older people have died. Thus, people my age are fearful of people who don’t wear masks and who object to the lockdown.

Then there is the ethnic threat to blacks and Hispanics like me who may be defenseless because they have underlying health problems or lack adequate medical care.

Many turn on the television and they see danger and disaster everywhere. This is not a happy time.

Mobs are on the streets in “usual suspect” cities: New York, Los Angeles, Detroit, Philadelphia, Washington, Oakland. But now they are also in a normally sane small town.

Saturday night, a thousand people gathered to protest in La Mesa, a city of 57,000 next to San Diego that has never hosted a rally of any sort except, perhaps, when it celebrated a Little League World Series victory in 1957.

Raoul Lowery Contreras

A thousand people gathered to protest the killing of George Floyd, a black man, by a white police officer who kneeled on his neck for over eight minutes. Floyd pleaded for the officer to let him “breathe.” Bystanders begged the officer to let the man breathe. They took videos with their phones. All the proof needed to send the officer to prison was on the Internet within minutes. The videos don’t lie; they are raw, unedited and powerful.

The officer was fired but not arrested. Protests started. Finally he was arrested and charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter. No bail. The legal system was working. Unfortunately, the cogs of justice work slowly; the delay led to protests, violence, looting and fires.

The City of La Mesa is 1,965 miles from Minneapolis. There was and is no excuse for the violence, looting and fires—none.

If the President of the United States had appeared on television from the White House within hours of the video hitting social media, he might have short-circuited the protests. He could have by stating that what he saw was unacceptable; that he had ordered the Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Investigation to determine if the man’s civil rights had been violated. He could say that federal prosecutions would ensue.

Would any of the protests, looting and fires have happened? We’ll never know.

The President harangues governors of riotous states with being “weak” and tells them to be “strong,” to “take back the streets,” and to “dominate” the streets.

Another brilliant Washington denizen, Arkansas Senator Tom Cotton, is advising President Trump to invoke the Insurrection Act of 1807 to flood rioting cities with federal troops. The 1807 law was used during the 1992 Los Angeles riots when Republican Gov. Pete Wilson asked Republican President George H.W. Bush for U.S. Marines to help the National Guard control the city. Congresswoman Maxine Waters called it an “uprising;” it took 50 lives and caused billions of dollars in damage.

Is now the time to flood the cities with federal troops? Only one man is necessary—that would be President Trump. He won’t because he’s a coward. He should go to a large Black church and lead its parishioners in prayer for justice. That would be someone we could trust.

President Donald J. Trump will never do what I suggest. He’s not strong enough or brave enough to do it.

Raoul Lowery Contreras is a Marine Corps veteran, political consultant and author of the new book White Anglo-Saxon Protestants (WASPS) & Mexicans. His work has appeared in the New American News Service of the New York Times Syndicate.

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