By Masha Gessen, The New Yorker, June 2, 2020
Three very different politicians made strikingly similar statements on Saturday, in response to protests erupting across the country in the wake of the police killing of George Floyd, in Minneapolis. Jacob Frey, the Democratic mayor of Minneapolis, blamed the destruction in his city on people who are “not Minneapolis residents.” (He later walked the statement back.) New York’s Mayor, Bill de Blasio, said that he had heard, from community leaders, “how resentful they were that people were coming in in many cases from outside the community and creating negativity and violence that did not represent their community.” And William Barr, the U.S. Attorney General, threatened to prosecute anyone who crossed state lines “to incite or participate in violent protesting.” President Trump, in his tweets, picked up on both Frey’s and Barr’s statements, issuing threats.
The shared premise of these comments is that people have no right to act politically in a neighborhood, city, or state that is not their own. This is specious. New Yorkers like me, for example, have a stake in the life of our entire city and the behavior of our entire police force. People may choose to protest in their own neighborhood, next door, or a two-hour bike ride away from home. There are many reasons to move through the city: to participate in an action together with friends who live in a different neighborhood; to find a particularly crowded or particularly empty public space; to address someone directly—city officials, police brass, or the people who suffer most at the hands of the police. The same is true for the country: the residents of the United States have a stake and a say in police regimes that exist across our country.