Everywhere I go I find a pal
Peter Weinschenk, Editor, The Record-Review
The thing you learn as a country editor is that you often have to wait for the story.
You might have to sit for hours on a Terrazzo floor outside a closed session school board meeting to learn the fate of a controversial district superintendent. You might have to stand on the side of a highway before police allow you to take pictures of a horrific traffic accident. Or you might have to wait on aluminum bleachers for hours before you can snap the picture of a champion charity tournament softball team.
On May 25, white Minneapolis police offi cer Derek Chauvin killed George Floyd, a black man, by placing his knee for nearly nine minutes on the handcuffed man’s neck.
Outrage over the murder has spiraled into a week of protests, looting and general mayhem in not just Minneapolis, but in scores of cities across the United States.
There’s part of me, as a journalist, that would like to be on the scene of this national eruption and chronicle in pictures and words the conflict in both its righteous purposefulness and destructive insanity. I’d tolerate a whiff of tear gas to get a good picture.
Yet, as a country editor, I know to be patient. I don’t have to run after the George Floyd story. It will find its way here to rural Marathon County. I just have to wait a little bit.
In so many ways, the George Floyd murder has nothing to do with us. It is the result of Minneapolis, while largely white and segregated, electing three liberal mayors on platforms of police reform but being stymied by a powerful police union. In the last few days, labor unions across Minnesota have demanded Lt. Robert Krall, president of the Minneapolis Police Officers Federation, resign as a first step to rewriting those police union contracts. We’ll see what happens.
But we will not be spared this urban government controversy. The George Floyd tragedy will come here as part of a presidential election that might be about Trump’s impeachment, an ongoing trade war with China, the COVID-19 pandemic or the nation’s economy plummeting towards Depression, but, as things are progressing, probably about race relations in America and how to calm down a seriously rattled country.
President Trump, down in the polls, appears to be resurrecting Richard Nixon’s 1968 “law and order” strategy to beat Hubert Humphrey, both condemning the Floyd murder but threatening to send the U.S. Army into states that don’t “dominate” protesters.
Will that strategy work? That depends on people here in Wisconsin, a key battleground state in the race for the presidency.
Right now, we have peaceful protesters, knowing their powerlessness, trying to persuade people like you and me that we need racial justice. We also have looters and vandals seeking to shock us into action. And then we have President Trump ready to use the U.S. Army as a cast of thousands in a campaign ad.
What’s rural Wisconsin’s conclusion? What’s the story? I am waiting. I have my pen and camera ready for action.