Of course, when a protest turns into violence, arson, rioting and looting, that protest has lost any claim to ethical legitimacy. Let’s (mostly)ignore that Woolly Mammoth in the room, however, to try to assess the George Floyd protests from as positive a perspective as possible.
Here’s the checklist:
1. Is this protest just and necessary?
Outside of the locale where the incident took place, the protests were neither just nor necessary. They were only necessary in Minneapolis if there was a real chance that the police involved would not be held accountable. There was no reason to assume that in the brief time before the mobs gathered and the chants began.
2. Is the primary motive for the protest unclear, personal, selfish, too broad, or narrow?
As in most such cases, the primary motive was and is incoherent. “Expressing outrage” is by definition too broad to be productive. “Justice” does not mean what the protesters seem to think it does.
3. Is the means of protest appropriate to the objective?
No, if the objectives are a fair trial and due process under the criminal justice system, which it should be. If anything, the protests undermine those objectives.
4. Is there a significant chance that it will achieve an ethical objective or contribute to doing so?
See Question #13 coming up. But no, I don’t see any ethical objective being accomplished. (Obviously the riots and property damage furthered no ethical objectives.) What would it be? Blowing off steam? Giving demagogues a chance to vent? Find new ways to demonize the President?
5. What will this protest cost, and who will have to pay the bill?
In money? Lots. The taxpayers will foot the bill, as usual. In damage to the country, community, race relations and civic discourse? The costs are incalculable, and unjustifiable.
6. Will the individuals or organizations that are the targets of the protest also be the ones who will most powerfully feel its effects?
7. Will innocent people be adversely affected by this action? (If so, how many?)
All good, well-trained, law abiding police officers are adversely affected, as are white Americans who are, once again, being accused of racism. And, of course, I am ignoring the looting and burning.
8. Is there a significant possibility that anyone will be hurt or harmed? (if so, how seriously? How many people?)
Well, we’ve seen the answer to that one pretty clearly, haven’t we? Riots and looting were an obvious potential result of the protests, given the recent examples of Ferguson and Baltimore.
9. Are the protesters prepared to take full responsibility for the consequences of the protest?
10. Would an objective person feel that the protest is fair, reasonable, and proportional to its goal?
11. What is the likelihood that the protest will be remembered as important, coherent, useful, effective and influential?
Well, let’s look at similar protests triggered by single events, like the Rodney King episode. What good did it accomplish, other than assisting O.J. Simpson’s acquittal?
12. Could the same resources, energy and time be more productively used toward achieving the same goals, or better ones?
How could they not?
Now here is the 13th Question, specific to this protest. The catch phrase we are hearing is that the George Floyd tragedy shows, once again, the need for “systemic reform regarding race in America.” As with the similarly vague calls for “sensible gun reform” and “comprehensive immigration reform.” this phrase is virtually meaningless, and is, I believe intended to be.
The 13th question is,
What is the “systemic reform regarding race in America” that the George Floyd protests purport to be seeking?