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? Continue reading
There is no justice for George Floyd. The cries for such a result raise a straw man. Floyd is dead, and shouldn’t be dead. There is no remedy for that, and our system promises none. In the criminal justice system, the role of what would be the plaintiff in a civil proceeding is taken by the State, or “the People.” Justice is sought by society, to validate the system of the rule of law, and to ensure the safety and integrity of society and civilization.
Whether or not the officers responsible for George Floyd’s death—and absent the revelation of some miraculous intervening cause that nobody suspected, like Floyd being bitten by an escaped Black Mamba while the police officer was kneeling on his neck, there is no reasonable argument that the officers were not responsible for his death—are convicted and punished to anyone’s satisfaction is not the measure of “justice” in this case. The measure of justice is whether due process is followed, whether the officers are fairly tried and competently defended, whether their prosecution obeys the rules of evidence and follows the law in all other respects, whether a competent and fairly vetted jury evaluates the evidence presented and delivers a verdict consistent with that evidence, following a trial overseen by an impartial judge, who then declares a fair punishment in light of the verdict. That is all our system can achieve. Whether all citizens, or any citizens at all, like or approve of the final outcome is irrelevant, and has nothing whatsoever to do with “justice for George Floyd.” The system seeks justice in a broader sense. Continue reading