As anyone could have predicted, the reaction is here. “The surge [in crime] is prompting cities whose leaders embraced the values of the movement last year to reassess how far they are willing to go to reimagine public safety and divert money away from the police and toward social services,” The New York Times reported recently. Instead of defunding the police, some cities are now talking about increasing funding for law enforcement. That’s what a crime wave will do.
In addition, some on the left are worried that rising crime will hurt Democrats who were sympathetic to the movement. It might also give energy to law-and-order candidates who run for office on the basis of actually enforcing the law rather than diverting police money to other purposes like housing and health care. “Fear of violence undermines liberal politics,” the leftist Times columnist Ezra Klein tweeted last week. “Strongmen politicians win, punitive responses like mass incarceration and warrior policing rise.”
So Biden and Harris welcomed the Floyd family to the White House amid an uncertain atmosphere. There was a political purpose to the event; the president wants to build support for the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act on Capitol Hill. Biden had wanted the bill passed by now, but it is still hung up in Congress.
Finally, there is the image of George Floyd himself. As the name of the bill suggests, and as the White House visit suggests, a year of activism, protest and upheaval has lent a certain martyr’s status to the Floyd name. “The martyrdom of George Floyd gave the American experience a moment of national anguish as we grieve for the black Americans killed by police brutality,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said at a news conference on June 8, 2020. Later that day, on MSNBC, Pelosi said, “Isn’t it a beautiful sight to behold? The martyrdom — the martyrdom of George Floyd has evoked such a response of peaceful demonstrators calling for the change that they know our country needs as we go forward.” Also on June 8, Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer and other top Democrats held an event at which they knelt for 8 minutes and 46 seconds in Floyd’s memory.
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