America is all about taking the knee again, after the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police.
Taking the knee has become a political act in protests that have sometimes turned violent. Whether this is being done out of solidarity with a cause or out of fear, who can say? Protesters who insist they hate oppression publicly compel police and politicians to kneel. I’ve heard it said that the kneeling is about healing the nation, even as the violent bear the nation away.
We’re all collateral damage to our politics now.
But with all the kneeling going on, as we’re told all the chaos is still only about what happened to George Floyd, a question: Is anyone taking a knee for David Dorn?
Dorn was African American. He was unjustly killed. His life mattered too, didn’t it?
But there aren’t any protests for Dorn, no public kneeling in his memory.
Dorn, 77, was a retired St. Louis police captain. The other night, as violence raged in St. Louis, Dorn was alerted to an alarm at a friend’s pawnshop.
He did what law enforcement officers are expected to do. Dorn answered the call. He tried to stop a gang of looters. The details are incomplete, but we do know he was shot to death.
And there is video.
He’s stretched out on the sidewalk. The looters rolled in and out, taking what they could grab. Someone recorded a video as he lay there. It was broadcast on Facebook.
The video is 13 minutes long. It is a horrible thing to see. A younger man speaks encouraging words to the older man as he lay dying.
“Oh cuz, come on, OG … Come on, OG. Oh my God, cuz,” says the younger man. “For a TV? They killed this old man for some TVs? … c’mon, man, that’s somebody’s granddaddy.”
It’s a scene as terrible as the one caught on video showing George Floyd killed by Minneapolis police.
Dorn’s eyelids flutter. He has a phone in his hand. The looters keep rolling in and out of the pawnshop, holding their treasures. And then he was gone. News reports said police had no suspects.
Does anyone take a knee for him?
Dave Patrick Underwood, a federal security officer, was killed as protests raged when he was standing guard outside the federal courthouse in Oakland, Calif. An officer with him was also shot but survived. And the FBI said the officers were targeted because they wore uniforms.
Underwood is African American. But nobody takes a knee for him, either. Like Dorn, most Americans don’t know his name.
Many cops believe their badges have been shamed by what happened to Floyd in Minneapolis. Others just want to get through their shifts and get home safe, without getting shot, as is happening all too often lately, and some cops have been lucky, barely escaping with their lives.
Those New York officers were lucky in that squad car the other night, when two New York lawyers allegedly handed a Molotov cocktail to another person who threw the firebomb at the cops’ window.
It didn’t ignite. If it had, there would be a social media orgy of sharing the video, with officers burning inside.
But there is that video of Capt. Dorn dying on the sidewalk.
Please don’t make the mistake of thinking that I’m trying to take something away from Floyd’s life or his death here. His life mattered. His death matters.
When I saw the horrific video of that white Minneapolis cop, Derek Chauvin, kneeling on Floyd’s neck, killing him, I called it murder. A day or so later, the crime was in fact charged as murder by authorities. Charges were upgraded Wednesday. Chauvin now has been charged with second-degree murder. Three other officers have been charged with the crime of aiding and abetting murder.
Most Americans were disgusted with what happened to Floyd. Most of us are united in wanting change. We know about the history of police and minorities. We know about police brutality over the decades, that some cops go out of their way to humiliate black men and make them kneel to the ground.
Culture has changed. We were united by our disgust and we wanted something done. But then the violent hijacked the protests, the looting and rage began, and unity was gone.
Some of you will be angry with me for writing this about David Dorn, about wondering where is the respect due to him. And some will accuse me of the Thought Crime of false equivalence.
But I’m thinking of an iconic protest photo from the front page of the Chicago Sun-Times.
It was of the Floyd protests in downtown Chicago, before the windows were broken and the looting began.
It was of an angry white female protester screaming at two black Chicago police officers. She put her face up close to theirs. She gave them the finger. She was full of rage.
I’m taking a wild guess, but I just don’t think she’d take a knee for David Dorn. He was a cop.
John Kass is a columnist for the Chicago Tribune. Readers may send him email at firstname.lastname@example.org