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Calgary

Behind the Violence, Looting & Vandalism During the Black Lives Matter Riots

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6 minute read

Image Credit: Michael Tracey 

It has been just over 2 months since the death of George Floyd in the streets of Minneapolis, Minnesota, at the hands of 3 police officers in broad daylight, ignited a global conversation on police brutality. The significant outrage invoked by this tragedy has manifested across the globe in the form of mass protests under the banner of Black Lives Matter. While a significant number of protests have been peaceful presentations of solidarity and collective calls for change, a number of cities throughout the United States and across the world have been devastated by violent riots, vandalism and looting. The response of the media and general public to these instances of violence, which have left a number of people dead, have dramatically deepened the ideological divide surrounding the already controversial issues of systematic racism and police brutality.

One side of the argument is highlighted by an opinion piece written by Robin D. G. Kelley, an American history professor, published in the New York Times titled “What Kind of Society Values Property Over Black Lives?”. This article argues the media’s focus on looting as a part of the riots is a way to deflect from the central issue. “The police keep killing us with impunity,” says Kelley, “Instead, once the burning and looting start, the media often shifts to the futility of “violence” as a legitimate path to justice.” 

Similarly, an InStyle piece by Jacqueline Schneider states, “If you’re more concerned about looted storefronts than the brutal loss of life that spurred these protests, please re-evaluate.” The article goes on to highlight certain leading fashion brands, such Marc Jacobs and Coach, have come out in support of the protests despite the material losses sustained by their brands as a result of the looting and destruction. Marc Jacobs published an Instagram post featuring the vandalism of a Los Angeles branch location with the simple caption, “A life cannot be replaced. Black Lives Matter.” 

A number of other works with a similar sentiment have emerged over the last two months, many of which make reference to the work of Martin Luther King Jr. While King is largely known for his unwavering commitment to non-violence in the face of oppression, he “recognized violent political rebellions … as the organic response to racial oppression and structural violence” (1).

 ““Alienated from society and knowing that this society cherishes property above people, [the looter] is shocking it by abusing property rights,” he said. The real provocateur of the riots, he argued, was white supremacy.” (2)

Therefore, many of the arguments that do not denounce looting as a part of the riots lean on this ideological argument along with the notion that the destruction of property should not be discussed alongside the loss of human life. 

On the opposite side of this controversial debate, journalist Michael Tracey presents an investigative report featuring first-hand stories from shop owners and locals in small US cities that have received minimal coverage throughout the riots. In something of a post-apocalyptic Purge-esque collection, Michael Tracey’s interviews showcase the current quality of life in places like Atlantic City, Fort Wayne, Green Bay, Olympia and more.  The impact of the riots in these areas has been the significant destruction of small businesses and housing projects, burnt buildings and cars, shattered glass and windows barricaded with plywood, oftentimes featuring bullet holes. 


Photo Credit: Michael Tracey 

According to Tracey, who spent six weeks travelling the US collecting testimonies and documenting the unfolding implications of the ongoing riots, “…The primary victims – meaning those who feared for their safety, suffered severe material losses, and whose lives were upended – are themselves minorities, and were targeted by activist whites.” 

Tracey shares the stories, fears and opinions of a number of minority locals and shop owners who struggle to make sense of the looting. Victims of the riots highlight the lack of available emergency responders during the crises, adding to the level of fear and helplessness being experienced. In one video, Tracy interviews a local resident, who “recalls being told during the riots that there would be no fire or police service available and people needed to fend for themselves.” 

A number of boarded up storefronts, many of which will likely never open again, feature signage with the phrase “Black-owned business”. Tracey believes this is both a statement of pride as well as a plea to be left alone by rioters, “Does the ubiquity of these types of signs, in which owners declare their ethnic or racial status, seem healthy to you?” he asks.


Photo Credit: Micheal Tracey 

These disparate opinions position looting and violent rioting as an inevitable response to minority oppression and injustice, while highlighting the logical inconsistency that occurs as a number of those being victimized are themselves, minorities. While this debate continues to unfold, the chaos remains ongoing across the United States, where many protests have continued to take violent turns and the death toll continues to rise.

For more stories, visit Todayville Calgary.

Alberta

Teen found guilty of manslaughter in hit-and-run death of Calgary police officer

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Calgary – A judge has found a teen involved in the hit-and-run death of a Calgary police officer guilty of manslaughter.

Sgt. Andrew Harnett died in hospital on Dec. 31, 2020, after being dragged by a fleeing SUV and falling into the path of an oncoming car.

The driver, who cannot be identified because he was 17 at the time, had testified he was scared when Harnett and another officer approached the vehicle during a traffic stop and he saw Harnett put his hand on his gun.

The teen’s lawyer said his client was guilty of manslaughter, but not first-degree murder.

Justice Anna Loparco agreed, saying that although the accused had “outright lied” about the gun, he was in a “panicked state” when he decided to flee and unable to know his actions would cause Harnett’s death.

The Crown says it will be seeking an adult sentence.

Loparco says Harnett’s behaviour was “exemplary” and there was no indication that he posed a threat to the accused.

“There’s no doubt he (the accused) should have realized it was likely to cause death,” Loparco said Thursday.

“But I’m unable to conclude this accused turned his mind to the consequences.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 10, 2022.

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Alberta

‘He’s not breathing’: Trial begins for Calgary man accused in infant’s death

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By Colette Derworiz in Calgary

A Calgary father has pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder in the death of his infant son, as court heard the man’s 911 call in which he said he was trying to calm the baby down.

The trial for Anthony Karl Kurucz, 32, started Monday in the Court of King’s Bench in Calgary. It is scheduled to run for almost three weeks.

Police have said emergency crews were called to a Calgary home in April 2018 to help a three-month-old in medical distress and that Kurucz was alone with his son at the time. The infant, Jayden Cyluck-Kurucz, was unconscious and he died in hospital two days later.

Kurucz was charged in September 2019 after police said the story he provided to medical staff was inconsistent with the boy’s symptoms.

On Monday, court heard a recording of the 911 call from Kurucz that came in around 12:15 p.m. on April 25, 2018.

“My baby was freaking out,” Kurucz said on the call. “I was trying to calm him down, rock him, that kind of thing.”

He said there was blood coming out of his son’s nose.

“I’m freaking out because my wife just went to take our dog to the vet,” Kurucz said.

He told the dispatcher he believed the boy’s heart was still beating.

“He’s very floppy, he’s very limp,” said Kurucz.

When asked by the dispatcher whether the baby was breathing, he responded: “I can’t tell. I know his heart is beating, though.”

He then asked whether his son was going to live.

“I don’t know what to do,” said Kurucz on the call. “I didn’t do anything wrong to him. I was just trying to calm him down and rock him.

“He’s not going to die, is he?”

Kurucz asked the dispatcher, Craig Moxley, whether police were coming. Moxley said paramedics and firefighters were on the way. Moxley confirmed the call during his testimony in court Monday.

Court heard fire crews were the first to arrive at the home in southeastern Calgary.

One of the senior firefighters, Greg Heise, testified that the crew found Kurucz outside.

“The father was holding Jayden on the sidewalk,” Heise said Monday. “We were probably caught a little off guard.

“The father said, ‘He’s not breathing.'”

Heise said first responders placed Jayden on the ground. His colleague started CPR while he tried to open Jayden’s airway, he said.

“I was not able to do that,” said Heise, noting there was dried blood around the baby’s nose and mouth.

He said the father didn’t provide much information when Kurucz was asked what happened.

“He was freaking out,” said Heise, who noted it was difficult to get a clear answer from the father. “He initially stayed with us.

“At some point, he mentioned he needed to have a cigarette.”

Heise said he and his colleague continued to treat Jayden until paramedics arrived a few minutes later.

“He was pale,” said Heise, adding there was a bluish tinge around the baby’s nose and mouth. “His eyes were open but not reactive.”

Another firefighter and a paramedic are scheduled to take the stand Monday afternoon.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 7, 2022.

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