By Emma Landsburgh
Over the last week protests have erupted across America, spreading to other countries around the world to fight against the systematic racism prevalent within modern society.
Demonstrators, peaceful or not, have been met with a barrage of rubber bullets, tear gas and police brutality.
George Floyd, a 46-year-old African American man, was killed by four police officers in Minnesota. A video was released showing one of the police officers, Derek Chauvin, kneeling on Floyd’s neck and choking him for almost 9 minutes as Floyd pleaded for his life. Another clip was released of them assaulting him in the back of a police car. George Floyd later died of his injuries in police custody, his autopsy has confirmed he died of asphyxia and loss of blood flow.
Only Derek Chauvin has been charged with murder in the 3rd degree, reducing George Floyd’s murder to merely an accident. This disregards not only George Floyd’s memory, but the legacies of Sandra Bland, Michael Brown, Tamir Rice and too many others, all of whom were murdered by officers who were supposed to be protecting them. Floyd died due to the actions of these men, yet, so far only only one was charged and the other three were only fired.
To African-American communities, police brutality has always been all to prevalent within society. There is a consciousness of danger as it affects their lives and they have to change habits and be aware constantly throughout their daily lives. Rather than being seen as an image of protection, police are aligned with images of danger and threat.
Police brutality ranges from harassment, false arrest, intimidation, battery, assault, torture and murder. Often those guilty of police brutality do not face punishment. Between 2013 to 2019, 7,666 people were killed by police in the United States and 7,567 of these did not face charges. There has to be a re-evaluation of dealing with police officers who are murderers and power hungry. There needs to be police accountability. Throughout these demonstrations the veil surrounding police brutality has been removed as there has been an onslaught of evidence showing police brutality inflicted on protesters and police officers inciting violence.
The United States has been immersed with demonstrations and peaceful protests as people fight for justice. Protesters in cities such as Philadelphia, New York, Chicago, Los Angelesand Minneapolis have faced the backlash of riot police as they have attempted to control and reinforce themselves. These demonstrations are showing the build-up of generations of pain and ignored voices. Imposed curfews have been ignored as the authorities again try to assert control over the crowds. The differing actions of police towards these protests have been staggering, especially after the response to those protesting lockdown. They have met protesters with force and violence, killing and utilising their police brutality. Often these peaceful protests become violent once the police arrive. Looting and fires have replaced the peaceful protests. The authority’s actions have America experiencing something that has not been seen to this extent since the 1960s.
Donald Trump, the American President, tweeted his thoughts upon those fighting against police brutality. Trump’s response was racist and derogatory as he shortened his view to a call to arms: “when the looting starts, the shooting starts”. He referenced a Miami police chief named Walter Headley from 1967. The police chief was known for his racist stance as he made this remark during a speech defending a policy, and that he did not mind police brutality.
This reference positions Trump as a main instigator of police brutality within these protests. In another tweet he named protesters “thugs”. By doing this Trump attempts to damage the meaning of these protests by placing a stereotype upon protesters and completely ignoring what they are protesting for. The President’s approach to this has worsened the situation as he has demeaned those who desire their voices to be heard and to be able to feel equal within society. The instigation of violence by those in power and the police have sparked a change in these protests.
Now Washington DC has been set ablaze, as protesters have marched towards the White House to stand against Trump and all that he represents. The White House has gone dark as Trump is hiding from those that his racist remarks were directed towards. The African American community has been let down again and again as they are placed in unequal positions and forced to deal with an establishment that looks down upon them. The movement has inspired a generation to join and fight against, not only George Floyd’s death, but all those before him. All of those who have been oppressed by the racist regime.
Cases of police brutality have become entrenched within the demonstrations as police actions spark violence within peaceful protests. Men, women, and children are met with tear gas and rubber bullets. Countless videos have been released of police lashing out against protesters. Police cars driving into crowds and people being pushed by officers. Milk pouring down people’s faces as they try and fight through the pain of tear gas. CNN reporters being arrested. In Louisville, there has been a police-involved shooting where a man named David McAtee was murdered. This has become a struggle between those who gain from minorities suffering and those who are fighting to end the inequality.
However, through the horrific situation some have banded together to help fight for equality. Peaceful protests are spreading across the globe. People with signs, symbols, showing their solidarity. Over social media there has been images of unity surrounded by images of destruction. Flint Police joined protesters and abandoned their batons and helmets. The Sheriff addressed the crowd, in the hopes of making it a parade rather than a protest, and then walked with them. Other photos have been released showing police crying or showing solidarity by kneeling in front of protesters. There is a glimmer of hope and unity as there is a possibility that forces can join together to fight the establishment that endorses the systemic racism and allows racist leaders. Unfortunately, these interactions are few.
It is no longer an option to stay silent, once you choose to be silent you become complicit with the racism that is entrenched within the world’s society. Now is the time to become an activist and make calls for equality. Now is a time to listen, to learn, to feel compassion. This is a situation fully focused upon human rights. Simple ways to contribute are to sign petitions or donate if you can. Racism cannot be allowed to continue within our society. Neither can it be endorsed by those in power. Our system can be changed, it has to be.