Home » Nooze » Us versus Them – Put It to an End

Us versus Them – Put It to an End

The last week has been hard in the US. It’s been especially hard here in St Paul, the nearest large city to Falcon Heights. That is where St Paul resident Philandro Castille was gunned down at a traffic stop, and the city that has seen the brunt of the protests as his home and the capitol of the state.

More than the horror of this shooting and the protests which turned ugly afterwards, the situation appears to be spinning out of control. For those of us who support the Black Lives Matter movement as well as our excellent St Paul Police there is a lot to be concerned about.

If cooler heads prevail, as they usually do in this city, we’ll be allright. But we have to keep our eyes on the prize and no longer accept the “Us versus Them” mentality destroying our nation.

Philandro Castille in his Saint Paul Public Schools garb. The kids at JJ Hill Montessori loved him.

Philandro Castille in his Saint Paul Public Schools garb. The kids at JJ Hill Montessori loved him.

The death of Philandro Castille was a horror, the kind of thing we never think could happen to one of our own. As Governor Mark Dayton said, “If he were white, he’d still be alive.” The governor has gotten a lot of heat for that statement, but I back it.

There is little doubt that the situation was made more tense by the fact that Castille was carrying a firearm, properly permitted by the tough but excellent laws of this state. He may have made a small error by explaining to the officer who pulled him over that he had a weapon – a situation where there is not a completely standard protocol to follow for de-escalation. It was a situation where the benefit of the doubt, usually all there is to white privilege, can be the difference between life and death.

St Paul has been home to many protests since this tragedy by Black Lives Matter (BLM), many of them centered on the Governor’s mansion. Despite Dayton’s clear support for improved justice across racial lines the group wants action – so the heat remains on him for now.

I-94, the racist scar that remains after 55 years.

I-94, the racist scar that remains after 56 years.

The Governor’s Mansion is a short distance away from Interstate 94, cut through the predominantly black community of Rondo more than 50 years ago. The emotional scars are as fresh as the asphalt scar across the urban landscape. For this reason, BLM chose to shut down the highway on Saturday night in almost a ritual statement demonstrating victory over institutional racism.

Times are different, however. BLM was in constant contact with St Paul Police through this march as they have been since the protests started. Riot gear never come out, no one became tense, and everything was peaceful. We do not tolerate racism in St Paul anymore and take first amendment rights very seriously.

The protesters went down the Lexington on-ramp and stormed the freeway about 7:45 PM. State Troopers closed down the freeway and re-routed traffic, but everything was calm. It remained calm until about 9:15, 90 minutes later, which is where this video shot by local activist videographers Unicorn Riot takes over judging by the emerging twilight sky.

I believe that this video speaks for itself. We have a group of people who are clearly prepared for a riot and are expecting one. You may judge their motivations as you wish.  The order to disperse is given for the first time, suggesting that a 90 minute occupation of the freeway was agreed to in the communication between BLM and the St Paul Police. Most people obeyed the order and left.

Forward another 90 minutes and nothing has yet happened. Police were patient. Another 30 minutes later a call went to get the children present out first, which turned into a strange altercation – the truck taking them away is rushed and the protester blocking it were pepper sprayed and scattered with flash-bang grenades. But the kids did get away safely.

The endgame. It had to be with the police as there was no other possible outcome.

The endgame. It had to be with the police as there was no other possible outcome.

After this, another 30 minutes passed during which a total of 21 officers were injured by thrown concrete, fireworks, and other debris. Tired of standing around as targets, they then advanced on the crowd and removed them.

It would take two more hours to clear the debris from the freeway so that it could reopen.  In total, the freeway was closed for six hours, 21 police were injured, and more than 100 protesters were arrested – but none were injured.

What happened this night was that the BLM protest was hijacked by people not associated with BLM – predominantly white protesters who are more interested in “smashing the system” than racial justice issues specifically. They clearly enjoyed the thrill of causing mayhem in our city, as many of them would go home to somewhere else and let the Rondo neighborhood deal with the aftermath of their poisoned relations with St Paul Police.

On that last point, however, I am not too worried. St Paul’s finest are multi-cultural and very professional. They know what went down.

Rashad Turner, Black Lives Matter, St Paul.

Rashad Turner, Black Lives Matter, St Paul.

What is important is that BLM’s peaceful protest was hijacked by an outside group, as local activist Rashad Turner explained the next day. And this could easily happen again. This is not about anger boiling over, this is not about justice, this is not about support for serious change. This became about punks out for the thrill of sticking it to the system and looking for an excuse for mayhem.

The problem is that the tactic of occupying a freeway is an empty one, divorced from a strategy to reach a goal. There was no endgame to it, save the protesters leaving at an appointed time. Without nearly perfect discipline, it could only have ended when the police forced an ending. That is what happened.

What is most painful here is that tragedies are sweeping St Paul and especially Dallas – two communities know for excellent and highly professional police forces. They are not the problem, and blaming “The Police” as a unit for the situation will get us nowhere.

Black Lives Matter knows this.  They will work to make good things happen as surely as we are all St Paulites.

We are all in this together.

We are all in this together.

We need action now. Campaign Zero has outlined the agenda for BLM, and it is a good one as we have discussed before. If you look down the page you can see how candidates stand on their demands. We must see this action and we must see changes in the system immediately. Those are plain goals and they are achievable. We must all keep our eyes on the prize.

More to the point, white people like me who want this all to stop have to take a strong stand. Blacks and other non-majority races have felt a need to be “race players” as long as there has been a US of A. It’s time for whites to be race players, too. It’s time for us to be respectful and show everyone that we are not all clueless idiots who care only for ourselves. It’s time to say, “I’m sorry, that’s racist and inappropriate” when someone makes a racist comment around us, no matter how uncomfortable the situation is.

Most of all, it is long past time for any of us to ever accept an “Us versus Them” situation. A free people cannot build a decent civilization on boundaries of hate and mistrust.

Philandro Castille’s death was a terrible tragedy, and it will soon be in the capable hands of Ramsey County Attorney John Choi to see how justice plays out. It was also a call for all of us to wake up and demand action. Since his death, the vacuum filled by a lack of action was filled by punks hurling rocks who don’t care about the hard work we’ve done so far to overcome what racism we have.

We must all act. There must be improvement. Everything will fall apart if this continues to be about “Us versus Them”. There is only “Us” and nothing more – all of us, working together to achieve decency, respect, order, and progress.

This is not a time for empty tactics. It is a time for action. We must all do our part.

20 thoughts on “Us versus Them – Put It to an End

  1. Philando did not make an error in telling the policeman that he had a firearm. In the training received when seeking a license to carry the students are told that they MUST tell a policeman that they have a license and that they have a fire arm in the car. He did everything right, the cop screwed up and shot him – no gun was display or reached for. This is a lie that the lawyer for the policeman is promoting.


    • Martha, that makes sense to me. I am hesitating because the law itself says that you do NOT have to reveal you have a gun unless asked.
      There does seem to be some confusion as to the proper protocol. This should be cleared up as soon as possible. I would like for someone official to state some kind of authoritative procedure for a traffic stop while carrying. And I do hope that what you tell me turns out to be right.
      I am sure we both agree that Castille’s death did not have to happen no matter how you look at it, however.

  2. Excellent post, Erik. Good to get your perspective. You and I often write about the same topics, sometimes from different perspectives, sometimes not, but I sometimes get the feeling that we are, in essence, “preaching to the choir”, and that our message does not spread to those who most need to hear what we say. Do you feel that way? We keep on doing what we do, and we will, but are we accomplishing anything more than relieving the pressure built up in our own brains? Sigh. Anyway, thank you for this post. I plan to re-blog tomorrow.

    • Thank you! Would I like a wider audience? Of course! I’d love to be paid, too. And I think that a lot of consumers of news (lectovores in general) would like my context-rich approach.
      I know I’m having an influence as it is, and that’s enough for now. As long as it gets me a good job somewhere near the field I’ll be happy.

  3. I understand their complaint & agree with them on this one. But closing down 94 only pisses people off. There has to be a better way for them to make their point.

  4. It all starts with Police training. Quite frankly the African Americans have ever right to be outraged. We have to support them in making the changes needed.

  5. I don’t mind being inconvenienced once in a while but there have to be more effective ways to protest than shutting down I94. I understand the vigil in front of Dayton’s mansion but the rest of it seems a bit off the point.

  6. Reblogged this on Filosofa's Word and commented:
    I have been considering for days the best way to address the violence that spread like wildfire through our nation last week, but have not, as yet, found my voice. Meanwhile, Erik Hare of Barataria has, as always, just the right words at the right time, so I defer to his excellent, thoughtful post on the topic(s). Please take a minute to read, and another minute to drop in on Erik and let him know your thoughts about his words.

  7. Hi Eric. I read your well-thought-out post regarding this most recent topic and I am interested in your thoughts on what I have written below. I’m sure it will be quite different since I am a libertarian. I would My heart grows heavier every day as I hear about more and more tragic events happening, not only in our own country but around the world, Innocent lives lost to different extremists (no matter what the religion is), police brutality, and officers killed in the middle of what people claim are peaceful rallies. Perhaps the rallies start out peaceful but if a live or 20 are lost during such a congregation of individuals, it then becomes an event that is no longer peaceful, no matter how many individuals did not want it to go down that way.

    Whoever kills an officer of the law should be served justice in the swiftest most appropriate means possible and if it is determined by a jury of 12, if it ever gets to court that it should be the death penalty, then so be it.

    To the police men and women who abuse their power and privilege of serving our great nation, you aren’t innocent either but this is nothing new. It only seems so because we have social media, citizen reporters by virtue of cellular technology and an irresponsible media who are very good at playing one side against the other in a never-ending political agenda of divide and conquer which leave the citizens vulnerable to being more and more manipulated because they continually lose trust in authority, after all, remember Rodney King? The media just played the clip of the police officers beating him over and over until it was indelibly etched in the minds of the people that the cops were the bad guys in that situation.

    You didn’t see much about what happened beforehand and it’s the same with these other cases where police brutality is involved.

    You had rap stars in the 90’s saying “fuck the police” and album titles like cop killer, or maybe that was a song but you get the idea.

    are there bad cops? Absolutely and they should be tried and reprimanded for brutality that occurs when it does and if someone dies as a result of such brutality, that policeman should also be subject to the same swift justice that I spoke of previously.

    every life matters, I’ll say it again for clarity, Every Life Matters. Not black lives, not LGBT lives, not disabled lives, not Indian, not Asian, but all lives matter and the recent black lives matter movement has resulted in a further fragmentation of a society that was already broken by division driven agendas for a long time.

    If you are suspected of a crime and told to lay on the ground and you don’t and it appears to the officer who suspects you of a criminal activity that you’re going for a gun, he’s acting on his training to respond to that situation, common sense and logic tell me that. Don’t react yet because I’m not finished.

    It is not necessary for that same officer who may genuinely be in fear of his life to shoot a suspect multiple times which may result in death of the suspect in question, something else common sense should tell anyone.

    Sure, an officer can say that he didn’t intend that the suspect die as a result of whatever police brutality was applied but as mike Brady once said “intentions are not good enough”. If I told the IRS that I intended to pay my taxes but the check got lost in the mail, would I be let off? Certainly not and neither should a police officer be given a slap on the wrist and/or administrative leave with or without pay when a suspect meets his or her demise under the charge of that officer. a death is a death no matter what the intention and if the loss of life is as serious of an issue as some claim in this country, what of the penalties for that loss? Where is the personal responsibility on both sides of the debate?

    I have good and dear friends who are minorities, hell, I’m a minority myself, and I have no reason to not believe these people when they tell me that there are racially motivated incidents that occur to people with such minority statuses by the very people who have sworn to protect them.

    The day after the shooting of police which resulted in 5 officers losing their lives in Dallas Texas, certain media outlets were silent about the event but those same individuals would be all over the internet with outrage if it was another person killed by a cop. This further reaffirms the sad reality that not all lives matter, only those that fulfill a need to further a specific political anti-cop agenda within certain parts of our society.

    We live in a hyper reactive hair-trigger society now where there seems to be almost no justification needed for someone to be killed, no matter which side of the law you’re on. But if you’re a public servant and you have probable cause for arresting someone suspected of a crime, what is your reaction supposed to be when the suspect resists arrest and when you’re constantly emendated with rhetoric that says that all cops are bad, all minorities are unjustly sought out to be perpetrators of criminal activity and that only certain lives matter, wouldn’t that put you on ultra-high alert and naturally elevate your reactive reflexes?

    When you’re a cop and you tell someone to lay on the ground, how are you delivering that directive? If it’s by way of getting in the face of the suspect and screaming confrontationally, consider how that will lead the suspect to respond for a moment.

    Confrontation breeds conflict and more confrontation, resulting in an endless circle of violence against each other that has almost no hope of being broken.

    Part of the blame for all the violence, disregard for human life and our fractured society lays at the feet of the entertainment industry (particularly Hollywood), all aspects from television and movies to music and video games. Consider the television shows that they make for children these days. How much violence occurs in one episode of some of the more popular shows? Hollywood’s flimsy excuse for pedaling such inappropriate media to children is that it sells and therefore there is a demand for the content.

    Look at how many people feel the need to be continuously bombarded by text messaging, email, Facebook twitter, and the like.

    Look at all the road rage around you, people cutting other people off just to gain 10 seconds of time to get where they’re going. Multiply that out and you have overwhelming traffic jams which stress people out more and more every day.

    We have learned to devalue life from the messages of planned parenthood who makes millions a year on abortions. Hollywood makes billions a year making movies that glorify and celebrate violence but do the gun control crowds say “follow the money” to those two organizations like they do with the NRA whenever there is a mass shooting?
    Most people don’t demonize those two organizations for their cultural role in the rise of perceived meaninglessness of the lives of their fellow man. Look in the phone book and see if there are as many organizations that offer adoption services, rather than abortions for young women who are pregnant. And for the record, I believe abortion is a personal choice and the government should have absolutely no say at all in that nor should they fund organizations that perform such procedures. That should be a choice between the individual and her physician, a comment which is sure to draw criticism from some.

    But present all the alternatives to someone in that situation, not just the easiest and the one that will make the most money for an organization who has a monetary interest in the woman making the choice that will best serve the financial needs of said organization. If it’s okay to kill innocent life then all bets are off on people who piss us off, believe differently than we do, harm someone we love, etc.

    This, then is my response to a fragmented world, one where people have little trust in authority, one where authority has done little to earn that trust, and one where life itself has value only as a political tool to advance a certain agenda among entrenched corporations and the politicians who allow themselves to be bought and sold by those organizations.

  8. Pingback: Spring is Coming! | Barataria - The work of Erik Hare

  9. Pingback: Why We Say “Black Lives Matter” | Barataria - The work of Erik Hare

  10. Pingback: Us versus Them – Put It to an End — Barataria – The work of Erik Hare – mind my business, I don't mind.

  11. I just started a blog after seeing the disgust over social media about the election. I wanted to speak but I am a teacher and friend and was concerned over expressing my thoughts. So I created “Take the Floor” where people like me could ask question and receive true, honest opinions with anonymity. Please post a thought on the current BLM topic. I just had a reader ask about media coverage based on race. I would love you to comment on that! I enjoyed reading your post.

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