Editor's Note: Several New Yorkers were interviewed a few weeks after the George Floyd killing. I wanted their opinion about the protest in New York City and all over the country. George Floyd was killed during an arrest on May 25th, 2020. The statements below are uncensored, unfiltered and come from New Yorkers of various ethnic backgrounds.
#BLM, All Life Matters
New Yorker #1 - BLM, all life matters. George Floyd was not a saint; however, our social contract did not warrant our government to treat humanity this way. There is too much power given to law enforcement without the same power given to their respective oversight. Systemic racism exists. Being an Asian American, I grew up with racist gestures thrown at me. I wished there was transparency when I was a victim of racism.
I'm a big believer in protest, but I questioned protesting and the riots because of COVID-19. I believe that these riots were heightened due to the fact that everyone was stuck at home, and they were looking for an excuse to let out their frustrations. What happens two weeks down the road when there's a spike in hospitalization? Is it worth putting yourself and your family at risk? In the digital era, history from both perspectives is being recorded.
The video showed George Floyd dying by the knee of police officer Chauvin. There's footage of rioting and looting throughout the United States. There is also footage of peaceful officers respecting the protesters and peaceful protests in cities around the world supporting BLM. This instantaneous transparency hopefully allows legislation to move swiftly to prevent this type of atrocity from ever happening again. The world is watching, and the world is participating.
Gotham City is burning
It is Not a Crime to Be Born Black
New Yorker #2 - When you look at the current cycle of protests in New York and many other states, it was just a matter of time before it happened. But maybe it is not entirely about George Floyd but about people who have been trapped in a cycle of hopelessness and anger. New York as we know it has been affected by the Covid-19 pandemic causing a chain reaction characterized by an economic slowdown and unemployment.
A combination of other factors caused the final catalyst that came in the form of the brutal murder of George Floyd. It's not the first time that we have experienced a race-related riot. There have been over 150 such riots since 1967. The truth of the matter is it's not the last time it will happen. While we can admit it probably wasn't the best time to be out on the streets, the anger is evident. People are saying no more.
Should We Defund The Police?
New Yorker #3 - I'm neutral on whether we should Defund the police because I haven't heard a clear-cut explanation of what it would entail. I understand that you want to redistribute funds to hire more social workers and focus on mental health. Does that mean that the cases that involve mentally ill individuals will be handled directly by social services? Will the social workers be trained to disarm an armed person who is mentally ill? Who will determine if the call should go to social services or the police? The 911 operators? If so, will the operators have to be retrained in how to make that determination?
Are any funds going to retrain the current police officers and new recruits? Having no police presence will create a vacuum that ultimately will be taken advantage of by organized crime groups down to petty criminals. You can't simply dismantle the police force because, like it or not, criminals are still out there—people who have no respect for the law or life as long as they make their money.
I'm not saying things should be kept as they are because they shouldn't be. However, before regulation on a vast scale is implemented, it must be carefully and thoroughly planned down to the nth degree. If not, there will be unimaginable consequences, and I'm afraid more innocent people will pay for the lack of planning, and many more lives will be lost. Which will inevitably lead to an overreaction and overcorrection in the opposite direction, and we will be right back to where we are.
Defund NYPD March
New Yorker #4 - Defunding NYPD is not the answer, and this way of thinking gives us some insight into our city government's thought process and how wrong some New Yorkers truly are. The New York Police Department has approximately 36,0000 police officers on the payroll. Even if a hundred officers were found guilty of being excessively aggressive or involved in unlawful acts, that is still less than 1% of the entire department. In the scenario I just described, those officers should be punished, not the entire department.
Defunding NYPD may affect the department financially. However, we've seen many untrained officers making poor decisions. This epidemic of police brutality is a training and qualification issue. I believe anyone interested in joining the police force should have military experience. NYPD does not have the level of training or discipline that military soldiers have.
This would rule out the too-common excuse of "I feared for my life" that police often use when committing murder. Soldiers are trained to be emotionally resilient. Stricter qualification requirements to become an NYPD officer are needed because the body cameras haven't curtailed anything.