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James Francisco Bonilla: Column on protest missed the point

James Francisco Bonilla: Column on protest missed the point

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I was deeply disappointed by your May 30 piece, “War Against Their Own,” by Rachel Mergen.

She begins by misinforming the reader that the uprising in the Twin Cities was merely a riot. The truth is that the vast majority of participants were not rioters. They were peacefully protesting the injustice of George Floyd’s murder and the continuing presence of systemic racism.

Do I condemn the minority that committed acts of violence? Absolutely, especially those outside agitators from the extreme left and right who came with the express intention of fermenting violence.

She asserts that “everyone [there] seems to have forgotten about the COVID-19 pandemic” because people were not social distancing. If she’d done her homework she would know that the disproportionate effect of this pandemic on Black Americans is yet another example of the systemic racism (in health care, employment) that protestors are fed up with.

She tells the reader that she has mixed emotions. But not once does she share her emotions about the death of George Floyd. She does however express some sympathy for the emotions of the police. This is not balanced reporting. It is a classic example of how implicit bias works in journalism.

Sadly, the piece was yet another instance of white-dominated media missing the point and preferring to focus on that which scares Americans versus unearthing the underlying issues. The events in the Twin Cities and nationwide are not about Black and Brown communities “waging war against their own.”

They are about facing racial inequality head-on. White Americans are also speaking up in unprecedented numbers. Across the country countless police officers have taken a knee in support of the peaceful protests.

In Winona, more than 100 cars did a Drive for Justice and Peace. Across town they were roundly greeted with applause, cheers and honks of support. That is news worth reporting.

As the breadth of national and international protests demonstrates, this is a struggle against those who continue to intentionally and unintentionally perpetuate racism versus those who wish to understand and make America a more perfect and just union.

“War Against Their Own” by the Winona Daily News failed to help your readers understand the complexity of these historic events.

James Francisco Bonilla, Winona

Editor's note: The front-page column was not written with the aim of providing historical perspective. It was a first-person account of the violence in Minneapolis – from looting and shooting to burning a police station, as evidenced in videos and photos – that occurred in the wake of George Floyd’s death.

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