by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Doing evil in the service of a just cause does not change either side of the moral equation: Evil remains evil, and the just cause remains just — neither consideration cancels out the other or transmutes it. With riots and violence convulsing American cities after the horrifying death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police, that principle bears consideration.
Protests are a normal and healthy part of democracy. Looting and arson are not. What is particularly vexing here is that the looting and arson are taking place while the gears of justice are turning — the police officers in question were dismissed and the principal malefactor charged with third-degree murder. Things have not moved as quickly as many would have liked, but this has been a matter of days, not weeks or months, and it is good that matters of this gravity are not approached in a panic with excessive haste that is more likely to lead to injustice than to swift justice. Also, quite often snippets of video can be misleading, which is why it’s important to carefully review all the facts, even in a case that seems as clear-cut as this one.
The riots only layer another injustice on top of the one done to George Floyd. One police officer is dead, at least one looter is dead, and much property has been destroyed — including the property of many black-owned businesses at the heart of the very communities whose interests the protesters purport to represent.
The moment calls for calm and leadership, but President Trump, finding himself in possession of both rhetorical gasoline and a raging fire, apparently cannot help making things worse. He tweeted, “When the looting starts, the shooting starts,” a phrase associated with some of the worst figures of the 1960s, George Wallace prominent among them.