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People walk past a Black Lives Matters sign after a night of protests and violence on May 29, 2020, in Minneapolis. | Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images
People walk past a Black Lives Matters sign after a night of protests and violence on May 29, 2020, in Minneapolis. | Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images
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How could he do it? Riots don’t touch key question

Listening to the police scanner during Saturday’s riot, trying to make sense of it all.

They’re breaking into all the stores. We have nothing on State ...

The updates calmly crackle across the police scanner, urgent and unceasing. CPD in my left ear, CFD in my right.

The injured officer is on the west side of the bridge, squad ...

Saturday night creeps by that way, 5 p.m. to midnight. I’m keeping track, while chewing on the question that set all this in motion:

How could he do it?

The question that had to cross every mind — maybe too obvious to say out loud — while watching that video of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin kneel on George Floyd’s neck for more than eight minutes until he was dead. It sparked horror that rattled the nation.

We need everybody to report to State and Lake, they’re about to set a building on fire.

But protests quickly deteriorated into violence — a police precinct headquarters burned in Minneapolis. Then in scattered cities. Then in cities across the country Saturday night including Chicago. Watching TV news is like trying to breathe through a straw. Trying to figure out what was happening here as dusk fell, I sat and listened to the police scanner.

The injured officer is on the west side of the bridge ...

Chauvin being charged with murder should have defused the outrage. So why this chaos? Economic ruin? Pandemic fatigue? Outside agitators? I don’t buy that. The disturbance took on a life of its own. This riot had as much to do with George Floyd as the championship riots of the 1990s had to do with Michael Jordan. The scanner constantly crackled.

Wagon at Macy’s, come up Madison now!

The key question got lost in the smoke and shattering glass. How could he do it? How could Chauvin do that to another human being?

Squad car north of Adams on Dearborn on fire ...

The easy answer: because Chauvin is a cop. Cops do that kind of thing.

But yet ... aren’t those also cops scrambling around downtown, holding their lines, issuing requests, trying to keep the city from tearing itself apart?

Two squad cars on fire in front of the Witt Hotel. Anybody know where the Witt Hotel is?

How could he do it? Lack of training? I was shaking my head sadly at the Gopher State cops botching it so badly up until 5 p.m. Saturday. We have our own training issues here. What was the plan for handling unrest, and how did it fall apart so quickly?

Give me more units at Hubbard and State, they’re surrounding them.

Police represent society, for good and bad. They represent us, our values. So let’s ask again: How could he do it? Easy. Because George Floyd wasn’t a person. To Chauvin, he wasn’t human, he was black.

They broke into the Palmer House ...

The Black Lives Matter movement is misnamed. Because black lives don’t matter — not to Derek Chauvin. Not to a lot of people. Look at the crimes that aren’t captured on camera. The substandard schools reserved for African Americans. The gaps in housing, education, employment, capital. We focus on one death while the machinery crushing uncounted lives chugs away. As it always has.

We need units! We need officers now!

How could he do it? He was trained. Not at the police academy, maybe. But by America, and its 400 years of systemic dehumanization and enslavement. Those go together and endure, a legacy baked into everything today. Of course, 40 percent of Americans ignore facts; they always have. You can’t be a self-satisfied slaveholder otherwise.

201 N. State, we got a squad car on fire ...

The Floyd killing isn’t even the only horrific killing of a black man to emerge on video in the past month. Ahmaud Arbery, or have you already forgotten? Shotgunned while jogging in February. The video created a stir ... three weeks ago.

Rush and Walton we have a large crowd. They’re going into Versace.

Forgotten now. Maybe that’s why this keeps happening. Because problems are easier to forget than fix. Bigotry is not a flaw in America but a feature. Black lives matter to some people in some places. But not to this cop in Minneapolis, nor his colleagues, nor many other Americans too dumb to even realize it.

To them, black lives — or gay lives, or women’s lives, or Jewish lives, or my life, or yours — simply aren’t important. How do you fix that? Hell if I know. I just report the fires, I don’t put them out.

15 West Hubbard, they are outnumbered, they need more cars ...

Those trashing the city — do their lives seem to matter much, even to themselves? On Saturday night, the Chicago cops seemed to be the ones to whom life really mattered.

15 West Hubbard, they are throwing things at the officers ...

15 West on Hubbard, please, they need some help ...

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