As liberal writer and former Baltimore Sun reporter Alec MacGillis put it, “there's been a massive, unprecedented (since 1918) shock to society over the past two months. Of *course* it is shaping what is unfolding now, in a way that didn't happen in, say, 2015-16,” when other police killings happened.
Gallup in late April found that “the percentage of U.S. adults who evaluate their lives well enough to be considered ‘thriving’ has dropped to 46.4%, matching the low point measured in November 2008 during the Great Recession.”
The share of Americans feeling stress and worry jumped by 50% this Spring. Unemployment, idleness, and fear will do that. Millions of people are without work. Millions of young people are without school. Everybody’s bars, restaurants, and coffee shops are closed.
Cities have removed the rims from basketball courts and threatened fines for getting together with too many of your friends. In cities, which is where the rioters are concentrated, people — particularly minorities and non-affluent young adults — had to deal with the added hassle of social-distancing and mask-policing.
More laws, and more intrusive laws means more potential points of friction between law enforcement and the public, which in turn means more protests, more of which are likely to go south.
Basketball games were broken up. Philadelphia police dragged a man from a bus for not wearing a mask. New York police arrested and handcuffed a mother after she rejected police instructions to wear her mask properly.
For the police, the lockdowns and the virus have added new stresses. The NYPD said that death threats against police rose as they were charged with policing coronavirus rules. With courthouses closed, many police saw all the work they did effectively discarded.
Others resented being asked to police petty infractions of new and unclear rules issued by politicians who never intended for full enforcement of those rules. Finally, when the protestors took to the streets this week, their downtowns already looked like ghost towns.
The anxiety of no school, no pool, no work, no church, and no certainty about the future, combined with added tension with police amid lockdown rules, and suddenly the kindling was a lot dryer, allowing the spark to set off a blaze that is encompassing our whole country.