Since the news has hit national headlines I’m assuming most of you reading this blog are aware of the Black Lives Matters protest at the Minneapolis Police Department (MPD) Fourth Precinct. If not here is your thumbnail storyline.
Two members of the MPD were involved in the shooting of Jamar Clark. A lot of questions surround the shooting, including the conflict of interest of having law enforcers investigate law enforcers. The protesters are demanding any video footage of the shooting be released for public scrutiny and the investigators are refusing claiming it could hinder the investigation. Although the protest has remained mostly civil five people were shot one night last week.
As with any protest there are both advocates and opponents. Of the two I find the opponents most interesting. Not because the protesters shutdown Highway 94 during rush hour one night but because they keep saying the protesters need to get jobs and be productive members of society. It’s the same argument the tough on crime crowd tends to fall back on whenever people are protesting police.
For me this brings up an interesting question. Is it better to be productive or to undo productivity? Even though many of the people at the protest are employed let’s consider their productivity. Although the protesters have not completely shutdown the precinct they are interfering with its day to day operations to some extent. A lot of officers are on duty guarding the precinct instead of driving around hoping to issue some petty traffic citations. And therein lies my issue. Even if the protesters are being productive the police are actually undoing previous productivity.
Consider what happens when an officer witnesses somebody driving above the arbitrarily posted speed limit. First the officer will turn on his bright flashy lights that divert everybody’s attention to them and cause epileptic people to have a seizure. Then the officers race down the highway and demand the offending motorist pull over to the side of the highway. Because of the way Minnesota’s traffic laws are written other people driving down the highway need to either merge over a lane or slow way down when passing the cop car. While motorists are creating legally mandated conditions that are more likely to cause an accident the officer is walking over to the pulled over car to write him a citation. Most people view the citation as a dollar amount but it really should be viewed as hours of a life. That citation effectively undoes a number of hours of productivity of the motorist. Instead of being able to, for example, buy a new television the motorist now has to give that money to the State.
Traffic citations are just one of many ways police actively undo productivity. Raiding cannabis growers results in a lot of already grown cannabis being destroyed. Civil forfeiture laws result in a lot of productivity being stolen in the form of property an office claims is related to a drug crime.
To me the protest is, at worst, a debate between unproductive people (although I don’t actually see the protesters as unproductive) and people who undo productivity. I’d much rather have a group of unproductive people than a group of people who are working to set back my productivity any day of the week.