At about eight o’clock on Saturday night, I realized that almost everything we had planned for this week’s paper—the feature story I’d spent most of Friday editing, the news stories already in progress, much of our culture coverage—no longer mattered, at least not right now.
The story was what was happening in Raleigh, the same story that was playing out in every major city in the United States: mass protests of police killings of Black people, most recently George Floyd in Minnesota. Raleigh news editor Leigh Tauss and staff photographer Jade Wilson were downtown documenting the protests, which were, at that point, large, powerful, and mostly peaceful.
Not long after I checked in, however, the evening went sideways.
We’ll get into that more in the feature package, including the destruction of our Raleigh office. I wanted to stress a few things here before we begin.
First, property damage sucks. But property can be replaced; people can’t. As painful as it is to see downtown businesses already struggling during the COVID-19 shutdown have to deal with this, too, we shouldn’t lose sight of the very important, very righteous cause driving these protests. Related: Property damage is vandalism, not violence. Shooting protesters with rubber bullets and dousing them with tear gas is violence.
Second, we don’t know the looters’ ideology or motives. The reality is likely complicated: There were certainly opportunists and people who came specifically to cause trouble. There were others who were swept up in the moment or were pissed off at the police. And there might have been white supremacists trying to make the Black Lives Matter crowd look bad; it seems dubious that BLM activists graffitied a white-power sign downtown, after all. In any event, it’s worth pointing out that they composed a very small percentage of the thousands who protested this weekend.
Third, I want to acknowledge our team in Raleigh this weekend: Tauss, Wilson, digital content manager Sara Pequeño, editorial assistant Cole Villena, and Triad City Beat writer Jordan Green, as well as freelance reporters Charlie McGee and (former INDY staff writer) Paul Blest and photographers Justin Kase Conder and Brenna Berry. Their dogged work to bring you this story, amid tear gas and rubber bullets and fear and frustration, makes me so incredibly proud.
Finally, I want to thank our readers. Within 24 hours of learning that our office had been destroyed, more than 450 people had joined the INDY Press Club, contributing a crazy amount of money to our journalism in difficult times. I can’t tell you how much we appreciate each and every one of you.
Contact editor in chief Jeffrey C. Billman at email@example.com.
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