Six days of protests have rocked the US and led to continued displays of Trump’s controversial leadership.
Rabat – The United States is at war with itself. Six days of both peaceful and violent protests have rocked the nation, marking the anger and agony over the systematic and blatant racism the country has struggled to hold itself accountable for since its founding 243 years ago.
The current conflict comes after another unarmed black man was killed at the hands of police in Minneapolis, Minnesota on May 25 and law enforcement took four days to arrest one of the four officers responsible for the killing.
Lawyers representing the case of George Floyd, the man who lost his life after officer Derek Chauvin knelt on his neck for several minutes, announced on June 1 that medical examiners confirmed that the asphyxiation from sustained pressure was the cause of Floyd’s death. An official post-mortem examination has ruled his death a homicide.
Peaceful vs. non-peaceful protests
As cities ignite in flames, businesses are being destroyed and thousands of people have been arrested for breaking curfews and vandalizing properties. Tensions are rising as confusion over who is responsible for the violence mounts.
US President Donald Trump has called the protesters “THUGS” and blamed anarchists, anti-fascist movement Antifa, and angry mobs for the ongoing destruction.
Although damage is certainly being done, in some cases, the power of video footage and photographs shared across news outlets and social media is being weaponized to enhance the optics of violence and destruction caused by the protests. Three-year-old scenes of a mall looting in Mexico emerged and were broadcasted as if they were current scenes from the US.
The focus on disorder and wreckage is further dividing the country.
George Floyd’s brother, Terrence Floyd, joined the protests in Minneapolis, condemning the rioting and looting sweeping across the country. Floyd took hold of a bullhorn and urged whoever was acting with violence to “relax.”
“I’m not over here blowing up stuff,” he said. “What are y’all doing? You’re doing nothing. That’s not going to bring my brother back.”
While most seem to condemn the damage and violence, some have displayed a sincere understanding of the roots of frustration by citing the United States’ history of displacing people of color and demonstrating extraordinary examples of inequality.
Examples include instances of redlining, higher interest rates on loans for people of color, the continuing process of gentrification, and the unforgotten history of looting land and resources dating back to European discovery of the country.
The violence against Native Americans has been wrongly documented in history books and is more accurately described as a genocide. The suffering endured decades ago continues to affect the native communities whose land, culture, and languages have been robbed from them.
Similarly, the injustice associated with slavery in the US has led many to call for reparations. Systematic racism has given white people a leg up in the capitalist society with a “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” mentality.
Considering numerous historical moments where black people have been punished for peacefully standing up against injustice, many are questioning what would be deemed an acceptable display of protest.
Throughout the nation, protesters continue to display peaceful acts of solidarity. Many have powerfully proven privilege and visualized the racial biases of law enforcement against civilians. On multiple accounts, white allies have stood as human shields between police and black protesters. Thousands have sprawled across public spaces laying face down and repeating some of George Floyd’s last words, “I can’t breathe,” for nine minutes straight.
Regardless of the nature of the protests, news of violent police and military responses are going viral.
In Minneapolis, food systems researcher Tanya Kerssen recorded a chilling video of armed law enforcement violently enforcing the city’s curfew enacted on May 30. Kerssen peacefully filmed from her front porch in full compliance with emergency regulation which states that the curfew is imposed “in all public places.”
Despite being on private property, the officials stopped in front of her home and yelled, “Light ‘em up!” before firing paint canisters directly at Kerssen and others on the porch.
Share widely: National guard and MPD sweeping our residential street. Shooting paint canisters at us on our own front porch. Yelling “light em up” #JusticeForGeorgeFloyd #JusticeForGeorge #BlackLivesMatter pic.twitter.com/bW48imyt55
— Tanya Kerssen (@tkerssen) May 31, 2020
Michael Forsberg, a protester in Los Angeles, shared his experience on Facebook, saying the protests he was part of were peaceful. It was not until fully-armed police swarmed the gathering, forming a barricade to stop the march from moving forward, and helicopters circled from above that tensions rose.
Forsberg summarizes his long post by saying, “Team 1 (protesters): has cardboard signs and t-shirts. Team 2 (police): has more body gear than a 1950’s NFL linebacker. And weapons. The atmosphere of peace was gone.”
He added, “I experienced that a peaceful demonstration is no longer peaceful when a stalemate is set between the armed and the unarmed. Therefore, arguments for ‘non-violent protests’ can be complicated by the circumstance.”
“For every violent headline we see, there are countless moments of unpublished peace from thousands of people longing for equity. Have hope!”
Donald Trump threatens to “dominate the streets,” adding fuel to the fire
Since being elected into office in 2016, US President Donald Trump has been rightfully under constant scrutiny for countless acts of unprofessional, discriminatory, and even dangerous leadership. Since the death of George Floyd, Trump’s prejudiced political agenda has been blamed in part for contributing to the current events.
Trump, a businessman and former reality TV-show host, addressed the nation on June 1 regarding the widespread protests.
“As we speak, I am dispatching thousands and thousands of heavily armed soldiers, military personnel, and law enforcement officers,” Trump said three days after briefly hiding in a protective underground bunker during Friday’s protests.
“These are acts of domestic terror. The destruction of innocent life and the spilling of innocent blood, is an offense to humanity and a crime against God.”
He added, “I am mobilizing all available federal resources, civilian and military to stop the rioting and looting.”
National Guard troops have been deployed in 23 states, aimed at controlling the protests in nearly 400 cities nationwide.
Trump also noted that he would be taking action to “protect the rights of law-abiding citizens, including your second amendment rights.”
The second amendment to the US constitution guarantees the right to keep and bear arms, a long-contested part of the Bill of Rights that Trump has rallied support around since his campaign for office.
The president has been repeatedly accused of instigating violence against protesters over Twitter. Days prior, he threatened protesters on social media, saying, “When the looting starts, the shooting starts.” The platform flagged the tweet for promoting violence.
As Trump boasted his support for peaceful protesters, police shot at nonviolent demonstrators in front of the White House with rubber bullets and sprayed them with tear gas to make way for the president’s suspicious display of religious servitude.
Bible in hand, Trump used little words to mark his photo op in front of a church that was damaged the day before.
Angered, Mariann Budde, the Episcopal bishop of Washington, D.C., said Trump used the church as a “prop.”
“Let me be clear, the President just used a Bible, the most sacred text of the Judeo-Christian tradition, and one of the churches of my diocese, without permission, as a backdrop for a message antithetical to the teachings of Jesus,” the bishop told CNN.
“We align ourselves with those seeking justice for the death of George Floyd and countless others. And I just can’t believe what my eyes have seen.”
Calling on the UN and demanding police reform
The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), a US civil rights organization formed in 1909, is calling on the United Nations to classify the mistreatment of black people in the US by police as a human rights violation.
Secondly, the NAACP and protesters have made clear that the US has a serious need for police reform and legislation that enforces zero-tolerance for police officers who kill unarmed, non-resisting individuals under arrest.
“The uprisings we’re witnessing in Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Minneapolis, New York, Oakland, Washington, D.C., and other cities across the US are a direct consequence of the racism, bigotry, violence, and subjugation against Black people that has festered in this country for far too long,” the NAACP wrote in a recent social media post.
Neither Trump nor the United Nations have responded to the calls to action. Meanwhile, the European Union expressed that they were “shocked and appalled” by the death of George Floyd.
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said he hopes that the protests “won’t slide further into violence” but called the uprising “more than legitimate.”
Additionally, more than 100 press freedom violations have been reported in the US since the start of the protests. Even after identifying themselves as reporters, police have been filmed arresting and attacking those legally permitted to cover the unrest. The Committee to Protect Journalists is investigating the allegations.