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Riots spurred by death of George Floyd take heavy toll on black lives, communities

Firefighters work on an apartment building under construction, Thursday, May 28, 2020, tentatively known as Midtown Corner, left, after it was burned to the ground in Minneapolis, Minn. during protests. Minneapolis residents awoke Thursday to assess the damage after rioters ignited fires and looted stores all over the city, as peaceful protests turned increasingly violent in the aftermath the death of George Floyd during an arrest. (Brian Peterson/Star Tribune via AP)

The rioting on the heels of Black Lives Matter protests sparked by the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody has come at a high price for the black community.

Those killed amid the rioting over the black man’s death have been disproportionately black. Businesses owned and frequented by blacks have been wiped out in the looting and destruction, and a memorial to black Civil War soldiers has been defaced.

“The contradictions and the hypocrisy of these so-called social justice warriors — they are more concerned about their own virtue-signaling, even if it means the continued destruction of black Americans,” said Robert Woodson, a conservative civil rights leader and founder of the Woodson Center.

Derrick Wilburn, executive director of the Rocky Mountain Black Conservatives, said Mr. Floyd’s death May 25 as a police officer knelt on his neck had united Americans — and then the riots began.

“It’s tough to see anything being worse for the black community than what we’ve seen in this last week. It’s horrible,” Mr. Wilburn said.

The unrest may be only the beginning. Public health officials have warned that the hundreds of thousands who took to the streets with little or no social distancing may fuel transmission of COVID-19, a disease that has hit racial minorities hardest.

“It is the perfect setup for the spread of the virus in the sense of creating some blips which might turn into some surges,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said Friday.

Protesters and their allies argue that the demonstrations were by and large peaceful and that the national outcry was needed to fight “systemic racism” and spur law enforcement reform, starting with proposals to “defund the police.”

Cities already heeding the call include Los Angeles and New York City, where plans are underway to cut the police

budget and redirect funding to social services. In Minneapolis, the majority of the City Council has taken it further by declaring support for dismantling the department and replacing it with “a transformative new model of public safety.”

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio pledged Sunday to make a “significant” cut to the police department’s $6 billion annual budget and redirect it to youth and social services programs, although he said the reduction would be less than the $1 billion requested by activists.

“I also will affirm, while doing that we will only do it in a way that we are certain continues to ensure that this city will be safe,” Mr. de Blasio said.

Mr. Woodson isn’t holding his breath. Given that disadvantaged minority communities often suffer from high crime rates, he said, slashing police forces would be a recipe for disaster for many black Americans.

He had a suggestion for social justice advocates seeking to hobble law enforcement: You go first.

“If they were really passionate about limiting police powers and reducing budgets, then I would suggest they should demonstrate by example by offering up their ZIP codes and declaring themselves a police-free zone,” said Mr. Woodson.

Among the many monuments vandalized during the rioting was the Robert Gould Shaw and the 54th Regiment Memorial in Boston, which honors the first all-volunteer black regiment of the Union Army.

The memorial was spray-painted with profanities and “ACAB,” which stands for “All Cops Are Bastards.”

“It was a memorial for men who gave their lives fighting for the freedom of their enslaved brethren. And these fools don’t know who they are,” said Mr. Wilburn. “So they’re out there defacing the memory of the original Black Lives Matter crusaders. They gave their life’s blood for black lives.”

Largely overshadowed in the coverage of the protest outcry were the names and faces of the people slain in the mayhem. An Associated Press chronicle of the fallen included the observation that “many of the people killed were African-Americans, compounding the tragedy for black families.”

The list includes Federal Protective Service Officer Dave Patrick Underwood, 53, who was shot while guarding a federal building in Oakland, California, and retired St. Louis police Capt. David Dorn, 77, who died outside a pawn shop. A 24-year-old man, Stephan Clark, has been charged in his death.

David McAtee, 53, the owner of a popular barbecue joint, was shot as police and National Guard members returned fire in Louisville, Kentucky. Chris Beaty, 38, a businessman and former Indiana University football player known as “Mr. Indianapolis,” was killed outside his apartment building.

Calvin L. Horton Jr., 43, was shot in Minneapolis, and a local business owner is under investigation. Javar Harrell, 21, was shot in Detroit. James Scurlock, 22, died after attacking a bar owner in Omaha, Nebraska, who was determined to act in self-defense.

Italia Kelly, 22, was killed by a stray bullet outside a Walmart in Davenport, Iowa, as she tried to leave a protest that became violent. Dorian Murell, 18, was shot in Indianapolis, and 29-year-old Tyler Newby has been charged in his death.

Attacks on black-owned businesses during the rioting became so prevalent that owners in cities such as Chicago, Detroit and Minneapolis began posting signs with messages including “Local Black Owned Business” and “Don’t Destroy Our Black Business.”

It was too late for some owners, such as KB Balla, the Minneapolis firefighter who sank his life savings into starting the Scores Sports Bar, only to see it destroyed in the rioting. A GoFundMe account started by a supporter has raised $1.1 million to rebuild.

Keanna Barber of WDB Marketing Group said she printed hundreds of “Black Owned Business” signs. She told the Chicago Sun-Times, “I was heartbroken to see so many black-owned businesses get looted.”

Not all of the rioters cared about the race of the business owner. In Chicago, Adryenne Alvarez, who is black, said she rushed outside after her husband, Ralph, was attacked at their Orangetheory Fitness franchise, but was hit on the back by a woman wielding a crowbar.

That she is black and supported the peaceful protests appeared not to matter to those who ransacked her business. A surveillance video posted on ABC7 showed what appeared to be a white looter breaking a window there.

Nail technician Lillian Wright said the 79 Nails shop, which had “all black workers,” was ransacked.

“This has never happened. This doesn’t make sense. This is not protesting. This is looting,” Ms. Wright told the Chicago Sun-Times.

Wilfred Reilly, author and assistant professor of political science at Kentucky State University, a historically black college, called the rioting ostensibly spurred by racial injustice “ludicrous.”

“I will say, I’ve never in my life seen anything as ludicrous as a heavily Caucasian mob, which is what you did have in Minneapolis — importantly, without excusing any rioters of any other color — burning a successful black man’s business while chanting ‘black lives matter,’” Mr. Reilly said on Fox News’ “Tucker Carlson Tonight.”

He added that “you’re going to get a lot more of that kind of nonsense in a big city with no police. That’s a bad idea.”

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