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Perspective: Three things to consider as we watch uprisings in Minneapolis

National media continues to misunderstand dynamics of protest, says political science professor Alvin Tillery

Minneapolis protests
Young people are deeply disaffected with police and law enforcement, Alvin Tillery says.

“Three things have become apparent as we watch the uprisings play out in Minneapolis in the wake of George Floyd’s tragic death at the hands of police officers,” says Northwestern political science professor Alvin Tillery.

Disaffection

“First, the young people of our country are deeply disaffected with racist policing and law enforcement bureaucracies in the United States.”

Bully pulpit

“Second, the uprising shows once again that we have a president who is unwilling to use the bully pulpit to draw us together.

President Trump’s refusal to take to television to calm the nation and demand justice for George Floyd, as President George H.W. Bush did during the Los Angeles uprisings in 1992, is really striking. Moreover, President Trump has displayed with his tweet calling on the Minneapolis police to shoot protesters for property crimes that he is more interested in exploiting the racial dynamics of the Floyd case to advance his own political agenda. This is reminiscent of his insistence that many of the neo-Nazi and white supremacist protesters were ‘good people’ during the Charlottesville crisis. It is also very sad that Mr. Trump’s comments are in such stark contrast to the thoughtful and direct commentary on the matter provided by Mayor Frey in Minneapolis, who pushed for the firing of the officers and has called for swift justice."

Dynamics of protest

Third, we see that the national media — with their continuing focus on property crimes and elevation of respectability frames — continues to misunderstand the dynamics of protest. Protests like the Minneapolis uprising are complex phenomena that spark due to a variety of stimuli — including the initial posture that police take when they respond to them. Fifty years after the Kerner Commission report, and the in middle of a COVID pandemic that has highlighted that we have not fixed the inequalities that the Kerner Commission charged us to resolve, no one should be on television asking why this is happening.”

About Alvin Tillery

Tillery is an associate professor of political science and director of the Center for the Study of Diversity and Democracy at Northwestern. His research and teaching interests are in the fields of American politics and political theory. His research in American politics focuses on American political development, racial and ethnic politics and media and politics.

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