A Journal of the Plague Year 2020–chapter 82

A New York police car on fire in Brooklyn on Saturday.

Sunday, May 31

It seems we’ve been missing all the action.

A set of Marella Gayla photos on The New Yorker website shows intense protests at Union Square—right outside our apartment window on 4th Avenue at 14th Street.

Where hundreds of demonstrators confronted uniformed cops on Thursday, you can see Zeckendorff Towers looming in the background. Another photographer’s work shows demonstrations a block away at 5th Avenue. In the background of photos there, you can see a telltale CVS Pharmacy.

The cause of the protests is, of course, the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, where there have been five nights of fierce protest. In over three dozen cities across the U.S.—from New York to Detroit, Atlanta, and San Francisco—there have been mass demonstrations, looting, and even the burning of buildings. In Brooklyn, one woman was arrested for throwing a Molotov cocktail at a police vehicle. In Washington, protests compelled police to cordon off several blocks around the White House. Curfews were imposed in Los Angeles, Atlanta, and Chicago.

I have been amazed, perplexed, and outraged for years about the police killings of black youth–and the cops’ seeming impunity.

But there’s not much I can do about it out here. So, I just had a nice walk out in the sunshine. One worry is that our new little rabbit pal is being bullied by the territorial squirrels. Oh, there is also incessant noise from the neighbor’s crew of lawn-cutters and leaf-blowers.

I’m not sorry to miss the city protests. I’m too old to run from baton-wielding police. And it’s one thing to go to demonstrations of your own volition, and another to have protests taking place right at your doorstep, with no exit. 

According to reports I’ve gotten from an NYC neighbor, the building scene is weird. At times, people wait in the lobby so they can go onto an elevator one at a time. We have a rented parking space in the lot below the building, but it’s not clear that the parking lot is even open. No one answers the phone when you call. Yet on the parking service’s website, that particular lot isn’t listed as being closed. Should I pay the bill? I am of course paying rent on our apartment upstairs, where we have not been since early March.

A modest dinner tonight: Progresso canned soup, roasted potatoes, and a salad.

Entertainment: final episodes of the Britbox video A Confession.

A Journal of the Plague Year 2020–chapter 81

CNN reporter Omar Jimenez is arrested in Minneapolis on May 29.

Saturday, May 30

Once again a young black man has been killed by police—and once again, the whole episode has been videoed by a bystander with a cell phone.

In Minneapolis, 46-year-old George Floyd was asphyxiated by 44-year-old Derek Chauvin, a police officer.

“Thank God a young person had a camera to video it,” said Minnesota Governor Tim Walz. 

But such events have repeatedly been caught on camera: Think New York loose-cigarette seller Eric Garner saying “I can’t breathe” as he was placed in a chokehold by a policeman in 2014. Remember the 2015 case of Walter Scott who was shot in the back as he ran away from a policeman in North Charleston, S.C. And now another case of “I can’t breathe.”

Are these black kids being killed despite the episodes being caught on camera—or precisely because of the videos?

Everyone knows that Trump’s every burp and fart are filmed and broadcast for the world to see. Isn’t it likely that there are an increasing number of like-minded exhibitionists saying, “Hey, why not me? I want that same level of exposure. ‘Dancing with the Stars,’ here I come.” Isn’t it possible that some of these exhibitionists are police?

Moreover, if a much-publicized killing by police brings on demonstrations and street violence, so much the better, some may figure. The more street violence, the greater the need for police. And, the greater the need for police equipped with combat-ready equipment—gas and gas masks, Kevlar vests, assault rifles, armored troop carriers, and so forth. It’s another market for the arms dealers.

Trump understands the political advantage that’s available: After a lot of mouthing off, he has placed military police units on notice. Law and Order! Nixon redux.

I’m all in favor of reducing the level of violence in our cities, including by limiting the sales of firearms. Lets cut back on the number of police, too.

And what about licensing mobile phones—shouldn’t we be limiting their spread as well?

Tonight: leftover balsamic chicken, couscous, green salad.

Entertainment: Episodes of the Britbox video A Confession.