After a truly hellish week of news, John Oliver dedicated the majority of his HBO show Last Week Tonight to the monstrous killings of Daunte Wright, 20, and Adam Toledo, 13, two youngsters (Black and Mexican) who were both unarmed when they were shot to death by police.
“In the wake of the shooting of Daunte Wright last Sunday, I can safely say this week has been a fucking nightmare,” said Oliver. “From the news that he was pulled over for minor traffic violations, including having an air freshener hanging on his rearview mirror, to the 26-year veteran of the police force who killed him claiming it was somehow an accident, to the local police department [in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota] flying a ‘thin blue line’ flag after the shooting, which is just corn-fed, deep-fried bullshit.”
According to Oliver, the response to the shootings was “depressingly familiar,” with “the president insisting on ‘peaceful protest,’ which is so often just another way to prioritize compliance over righteous dissent and to protect property over human lives—and those calls were especially galling given law enforcement’s anything-but-peaceful response, as police fired tear gas, rubber bullets, and flash-bang grenades at protesters, creating more tension and anxiety in an already emotionally exhausted city.”
A clearly frustrated and angry Oliver was wary of going through the same motions—citing police brutality statistics, going after the bad-faith responses to the tragedies from conservative media figures, or reiterating how appalling the Wright episode was. But then the news broke of Adam Toledo’s shooting death.
“We couldn’t even finish writing about what happened to Daunte Wright before the city of Chicago released video of one of their officers killing a 13-year-old unarmed child, Adam Toledo—footage which clearly contradicted the picture of an armed confrontation painted by the police and the mayor, as well as a prosecutor who said Toledo had a gun in his hand when he was shot, which he did not,” explained Oliver.
“This show has been on the air for seven years now… and in that time, we have repeatedly covered the multiple ways police terrorize communities of color in this country. We have done stories on police militarization; on their overuse of municipal violations and raids; on their lack of accountability; and on how the history of police in America is inextricably linked to white supremacy. And I could make the same arguments to you again now,” Oliver continued. “I could describe the problem to you, but I think you know what and who it is. I could offer solutions, but I think you know what they are. I could offer you anger, but if you’re a sentient human being alive right now and you are not already full of that, I honestly don’t know what to say to you.”
“Because the fact is, Black people continue to be mowed down by the police that they pay for. And if you watched the news at all this week, you are probably exhausted. Black people in America definitely are—not just from this week, of course, but from, you know, everything.”
Later on in the program, Oliver delivered a more pointed call to action to his viewers:
“The fact is, it’s once again been made painfully clear that we—and when I say we, I mean white America—have to stop talking about fundamental change in policing and actually make it happen, because this cycle of state violence against Black lives has to be stopped. So put on your shoes, leave the house, march in the streets, and demand a better country—one in which Black people are treated with fundamental respect.”