Sam Burnham, Curator
A lot of folks are processing some recent events. In Minneapolis, George Floyd died after an arresting officer pressed his knee into Floyd’s neck, slowly suffocating him to death. In Louisville, Kentucky, Breonna Taylor was asleep in her own bed as plainclothes officers executed a no-knock warrant on the wrong apartment, her apartment and shot her to death. In Brunswick, Georgia, Ahmaud Arbery was chased down by men with guns and when he attempted to defend himself, they killed him.
It’s time to dial some things back. It’s time to make some changes. Let me say that I spent 21 years in public safety and many of my college friends majored in criminal justice. I know a lot of cops. I know a lot of really good cops. I also know some trash in uniform. And the trash ruins it for the good cops and for the taxpayers. The three people I have mentioned in this article are dead because of bad cops (or citizens) and bad practices.
Floyd was arrested in suspicion of trying to pass a counterfeit $20 bill. A crime, but not exactly violent. And he didn’t appear to be resisting arrest. And law enforcement officials across the nation are condemning the tactic used by an officer that led to Floyd’s death. The same officials are also criticizing the other officers on scene who saw what was happening but didn’t stop it. This man didn’t need to die. In fact, he shouldn’t have died. It’s just unacceptable. It’s inexcusable. It’s wrong.
Taylor was an EMT. She was asleep in her own bed, not bothering a soul. Taylor’s boyfriend, Kenneth Walker has been arrested and charged with attempted murder and assault for...shooting at people who busted into their apartment with guns in the middle of the night. This is a serious violation of Amendment IV. Oh, and the drug suspect police were searching for was already in custody.
Aubery was jogging in a neighborhood. He had allegedly entered a home under construction. Something I have done hundreds of times to look at floor plans, architectural techniques, carpentry, etc. Nothing was reported stolen or damaged from the construction site. Two armed men in a pickup tried to apprehend Arbery. A third man videoed what happened as Arbery tried to defend himself and was shot dead.
So one person accused of a minor offense and two completely innocent people are dead. A fourth person who reacted pretty much as you’d expect a person to react is awaiting trial on felony charges because of bad actions by bad cops and overzealous citizens.
As citizens, we have to expect better from our police forces and our neighbors. There are absolutely times for police to use deadly force. Slowly suffocating a counterfeiting suspect isn’t one of them. There’s never an excuse for a late night execution of a no-knock warrant. It’s just unconstitutional. And if you suspect someone is committing a burglary, armed confrontation probably isn’t going to end like it does in the movies. So keep your John Wayne butt on the porch and wait for police.
There have been cases in which police were justified. There’s no excuse for these three cases. All three were avoidable and should have been avoided. There have to be arrests, there have to be trials, and barring unexpected evidence, there have to be convictions. This is not how our founders intended our republic to be policed. This has to stop. It has to stop now.
The marker at one of the mass graves at Shiloh Battlefield. More Americans were killed in action in two days at Shiloh than in all previous American wars combined. Official Civil War death totals estimate 650,000 dead. Historians speculate that the actual number of dead is likely more than a million.
This pictorial offers a few examples of the conflicts in which Americans gave their lives. Thousands of Americans have died in conflicts, skirmishes, police actions, and interventions. There is no memorial for many of these people. In some cases, the government would rather we didn’t know. But the sacrifices are still very real. And the physical, mental, and emotional toll of war has killed many of its participants years, even decades, after the guns fell silent.
This Memorial Day, may we remember these sacrifices. May we embrace and celebrate the blessings of freedom that were purchased with these sacrifices. But may we never forget the cost.
Wishing you a happy and mindful Memorial Day from ABG.
Within Nine Months Two Attempts and Two Lynchings in Floyd
A letter from The Honorable Seaborn Wright to the editor of the Rome Tribune, published Sunday, January 6, 1901
To the Editor of The Tribune: - Whatever may be the truth of Thursday's lynching it is well for the people of Rome in the quiet of this Sabbath morn to ask themselves what good or evil will result from the terrible scenes through which we have passed?
I am unalterably opposed to lynchings. Not because my blood does not boil at the crimes for which they are done but I know that course never corrects or defeats crime, but on the other hand excites and inflames men to the repeated commission of it. If there is one lesson plainly taught by all history, it is this.
For a time the reign of law has been suspended in this city. Are we the better for it? Has any body's respect for the law been increased? Has our confidence in the ability or willingness of officers of the law to protect us been enhanced? Do we feel that the bodies of our women, or the sanctity of our homes, are safe? Are we willing to go on with this experiment we began Thursday - relegate our courts to the rear. turn over the keys of our jails to the mob, and abide the consequences? If we are, all we have to do is remain silent, then then it will be repeated, it will grow, feeding upon the unrestrained passions of men, until the mob shall decide in all cases what authority the courts or power the officers of the law shall have. Yesterday The Anniston Hot Blast said:
"Within the last few days in one county of the state, a man was murdered by a mob for burning a barn; another in another county was murdered by a mob for merely being charged for stealing a bunch of keys, while a third was likewise disposed of in another county for cutting another man with a knife. The law of the land demanded life in neither case, but all the same the mob, assuming to be superior to the law, took vengeance into its own bloody hands."
Is any man fool enough to think he can limit the action of the mob? Today perhaps in righteous indignation it slays the ravisher of women, but understand tomorrow it murders men for sport.
Think of its hellish influence on the minds of the young. The children parading in the streets today with chips from the tree upon which the negro hung in their pockets, with pieces of his horribly mutilated body in their hands!
What does this mean? What devil is it stirring up in their little hearts? Is it teaching them respect for law and order? Does it teach them a holy reverence for chastity?
Rather does it not arouse the latent devil in their souls, and make them the heralds, if not the authors, of a future "reign of terror?"
Within nine months there have been four attempts and lynchings in this county. It is time to call a halt and arouse a public sentiment strong enough to teach all men - mobs and officers alike - that the law is supreme in this county.
I call upon all lovers of law and order to speak out in no uncertain terms and quit talking under breath about these matters. And I especially urge our ministry, God's chosen leaders in all great moral movements, to swing their ponderous influence boldly to the rescue of the law.
Historian, self-proclaimed gentleman, agrarian-at-heart, & curator extraordinaire