Tuesday, June 02, 2020

Are Americans Grasping the Reality of Police Violence?

As the nation continues to be gripped by protests against police brutality, I've been struck by the near-constant footage of excessive police force against journalists and civilians who seem to be doing nothing more than exercising their constitutional rights. For me, it powerfully communicates the reality of a central theme of the protests: that the police are out of control and are acting as a tool of repression and violence against the Americans they nominally are there to protect.

But my vantage is only a partial one, and I've been waiting to see evidence about how the American people as a whole are reacting. We all still are living in the shadow of 1968, and there is the constant fear that the narrative that emerges will be one where the police are the victims and "law and order" must be restored. Is that what's happening?

Today, Kevin Drum links to new polling that gives cause for optimism: Asked over the weekend whether "police violence against the public" or "violence against the police" was a more serious problem, Americans picked the former by a 55/30 margin. Independents answered at roughly the same margin -- 54/27. Even White Americans agreed by a 50/35 margin (for Black Americans, the gap was a whopping 85/8).

It's just one poll, and just one question. But it does seem to point to a potential sea change (also on that note: a Minneapolis city councilor talking seriously about trying to disband the Minneapolis Police Department outright).

Meanwhile, it's primary night in several states across America -- off-hand, none of the marquee races seem like they'd be particularly impacted by the protests (maybe the effort to take out White Supremacist GOP Rep. Steve King), but I suppose we'll see.

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