By U.S. Sen. Mike Rounds (R-S.D.)
Like many Americans, I am saddened and angered by the death of George Floyd. Watching the video displaying such reckless, unwarranted brutality at the hands of law enforcement made me sick to my stomach. Those responsible for his death should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. As a nation, we stand together in opposition to the violent killing of George Floyd.
When crimes like this occur, it is important that we continue to speak out against them. Over the past few weeks, countless individuals have made their voices heard. However, we must remember that violence and rioting are not the answer. The right to peacefully protest is an unassailable right enshrined in the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. However, violence and looting – which in many cases harms local businesses and communities – is an unacceptable exploitation of the situation that undermines the intent of the legitimate and important message of the peaceful protestors. Many of the businesses that have been vandalized and stolen from are small businesses that have already been hurting for the past few months because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The rioting which has occurred in many of our country’s communities does not represent the heart of the people that call these communities home. In many cases, the violence is being perpetrated by radical outsiders trying to further divide us. We cannot let this happen. As a country, we can do better. Violence is not the answer.
We do have an important, peaceful tool available to us, which has worked in our country for nearly 250 years: our right to vote in free and fair elections. South Dakotans recently exercised this right during the June 2 primary election, and we will take to the polls again to vote in our state, local and federal elections on November 3. Voting is the most powerful, effective tool in making a difference and enacting change. I thank all those who partake in this important tradition to make sure your voices are heard, as our election system is only as good as those who participate in it.
Former President Bill Clinton, in his first inaugural address, reminded us that “there is nothing wrong with America that cannot be cured with what is right in America.” I couldn’t agree more. Despite our challenges, we remain the greatest, strongest, freest country in the world. In the immediate future, our country will continue to be pained by the recent events. We certainly have work ahead of us as we seek ways to heal and make forward progress. This starts by recognizing the criminal act causing the loss of George Floyd’s life, standing together to seek justice, and ending the violence and rioting that undermines the message.
We will continue pray for George, for his family, for our country and for a permanent healing and understanding of all Americans, regardless of race. And we will renew our resolve to make our country better for future generations.