Police Are Hurting People Because They Want To

To suggest otherwise is to blindly ignore reality

Jessica Valenti
Published in
3 min readJun 1, 2020
Police stand guard outside the White House on May 31, 2020, as people gather to protest the death of George Floyd. Photo: Samuel Corum/AFP via Getty Images

In at least 30 cities this weekend, protests spread over the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police. In an ironic — and entirely predictable — twist, police officers in city after city responded to the demonstrations against their brutality with yet more violence.

Cop cars in Brooklyn mowed down crowds of protestors. The National Guard in Minneapolis shot paint canisters at residents standing on their own porches. A Pennsylvania officer was filmed kicking a teenager who was already sitting on the ground, her hands covering her face. An officer in Utah knocked over an elderly man walking with a cane. And across the country, officers shot journalists with rubber bullets (once on live TV), arrested reporters, and pepper-sprayed members of the press, even as they clearly identified themselves as working journalists.

With each new video shared on social media, it became increasingly clear that police officers were the ones escalating the violence. Their attacks on civilians were not made in self-defense or because they were needed to maintain order — police hurt people because they wanted to.

In response, conservatives bemoaned property destruction and theft — the president even tweeted that “looters” should be shot — as if broken windows or stolen clothing could compare to the thousands of lives lost to police violence. This focus is not accidental: By painting mostly peaceful protestors as criminals, those on the right hope it will provide cover for — and distract from — the unchecked thuggery of police officers across the U.S.

But there is no “both sides” argument to be made here. Police officers, armed and armored, act with the power of the state behind them. Protestors have no such power. Cops are tasked with protecting the community and de-escalating tensions. Protesters have no such responsibility. To act as if this is a fight between equals is ridiculous.

Equally ludicrous is the idea that police officers need to be aggressive in their own defense. In response to the video of a police vehicle running over protestors, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said, “If those protesters had just…



Jessica Valenti
Writer for

Feminist author & columnist. Native NYer, pasta enthusiast.