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Please hear the protests and join those who mourn the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis just over a week ago.

Try to understand why so many Americans have taken to the streets every day since, why this incident has forced generations of racism front of mind -- and why this moment could prove transformational.

The looting, the arson, the injury and death that have come in the aftermath nationwide have clouded the message.

Yet the universal message from peaceful protesters remains paramount.

None of us should forget the image of that 46-year-old black man, his life slipping away before us, his neck pinned to the ground under the knee of a white Minneapolis police officer for nearly nine minutes.

The tormenting video captured by a bystander plainly showed the officer and his suspect, a man already in handcuffs who gasped for breath and pleaded for help, even calling out to his dead mother.

That officer has since been charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter.

A different video revealed that two other officers helped hold Floyd down as yet another officer stood by, watching.

All four officers lost their jobs, but Floyd lost his life.

We have not yet seen video from body cameras the officers were wearing to know precisely what any of them said or the exact interaction among them or with Floyd.

We do know whatever they did, or didn't do, came in response to Floyd's passing a $20 bill that was alleged to have been counterfeit.

Maybe he knew the bill was counterfeit. Maybe he didn't. Either way, he should not have died at the hands of police.

What happened to Floyd was wrong and made worse by the fact that he was one of too many unarmed black people who have been killed by police in our recent history.

Floyd's death may just have proved to be one indefensible death too many, based on the nationwide response since he died on that Minnesota pavement.

While his arresting officer has been charged, the others were not, at least not yet.

Demands for justice for George Floyd continue as diverse crowds gather across this country to decry racism and police brutality.

The protesters keep coming day after day, determined to be heard even at risk of infection by the coronavirus still raging through the U.S.

Besides the obvious and welcome diversity of the protesters, some of the most encouraging sights have involved the police and other authorities dispatched to keep the peace. Officers, even chiefs of police and sheriffs, have taken a knee beside or marched in solidarity with protesters in several locales.

These officers showed themselves as capable as the protesters of recognizing injustice and wanting to change what caused all this pent-up anger, fear and frustration.

Unfortunately, more of the images of the peace-keepers are of officers or guardsmen advancing in tight order, sweeping protesters off of American streets with tear gas and flash bangs.

That happens as daylight turns to dark or curfews kick in, usually sparked by the people perpetrating the criminal break-ins and setting senseless fires to destroy public and private property.

What begin as mostly peaceful protests to express grief and anger have frequently turn violent, forcing the authorities to respond accordingly.

No state has escaped the protests. In Arkansas, the largest have been in Little Rock at the state Capitol with damage reported to nearby buildings.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson activated the National Guard over the weekend and had them ready to support Arkansas State Police and Little Rock Police when a late-night crowd got unruly in the capital city on Sunday.

Police have deployed tear gas and the noise-making flash bangs against demonstrators in Little Rock, Conway and Bentonville, which are just a few of the Arkansas cities where protests have been staged. More are expected.

Gov. Hutchinson said on Monday that by far the largest number of people participating here are peaceful protesters, exercising their constitutional rights.

A smaller group of Arkansans, he said, come with an intent to loot or wreak havoc. Others are out-of-state people here "to raise this to insurrection and lawlessness," the governor said, attributing the information to undefined "intelligence."

The governor also called the death of George Floyd "troubling to anybody who appreciates law enforcement" and its role in public safety.

"I understand the outrage, the disappointment, the fear and the distrust that is prevalent," he said.

While it is his responsibility to make sure peaceful protesters are protected, Hutchinson said he also must stop violence and damage to property in the state.

What happens next?

That depends on how all of us -- those in law enforcement and leadership, those in the streets and those living lives away from the clamor -- respond to that core message from the protesters.

We'll never all be of one mind. But the pendulum may have swung just far enough to find justice for George Floyd and maybe effect some lasting change in race relations.

Commentary on 06/03/2020

Print Headline: No escape

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