Worldwide Protests, arrested journalists, a burnt police station, removed statues and
tangible victories. The George Floyd protests in less than three weeks.
By Jack Philips
This article is exclusive to the Online Edition 7 of VARSITY News.
On May 25th, George Floyd, a 46-year-old black man, was killed by the white, and then-Minneapolis police officer, Derek Chauvin who pinned Mr. Floyd to the ground by pressing his knee against his neck. Chauvin kept his knee on Floyd’s neck despite Floyd’s complaints that he could not breathe and continued to do so for minutes after Floyd fell unconscious. Chauvin has since been charged with second degree murder and second degree manslaughter. The other three officers that were on the scene have been charged with aiding and abetting murder. The officers were responding to a complaint that Mr. Floyd had used a counterfeit twenty dollar bill to buy cigarettes. Mr. Floyd has since become one of many martyrs in the Black Lives Matter (BLM) Movement and murals in his memory have appeared all around the world.
The murder of George Floyd has sparked widespread protests across the USA and significant portions of the world. Protests in Minneapolis began the day after Floyd was killed and soon spread across the United States and the world. Protests have now taken place in at least 40 countries, representing every continent except Antarctica. Right wing counter-protestors have also appeared in small numbers in the USA, France, and most notably, London, where bottles, smoke bombs and fists were thrown at police.
There have been instances of looting and rioting by an unidentified minority of people amongst the protestors. This included the burning of a Minneapolis police station, police vehicles, and the looting of various stores, some black-owned. Police have contained the protests by frequent use of rubber bullets, teargas and blast balls, and often violating procedure to do so. In the USA there have been 148 recorded cases of police arrests or attacks against journalists, more than half of whom had clearly identified themselves as news media prior to being assaulted or arrested.
With no leader, or single organizational platform, the aims of the protests are diverse and various. Many protestors align themselves with the Black Lives Matter movement and call for an end to systemic racism and police brutality. Another widespread aim of the protestors, is the defunding of the police, opting to invest rather in social programs. In Minneapolis, where Chauvin was killed, protestors have successfully demanded that the Minneapolis police station be abolished completely. In Seattle, Washington, after police evacuated the Seattle Police Department’s east precinct, protestors occupied it and fenced off an area of four blocks and declared it the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone, describing it as a “no cop co-op”.
Other protestors are simply angry about continued racism and police brutality, and want to express the fact.
In less than three weeks, there has been a banning of chokeholds in many US cities, the Minneapolis police station has been voted by councillors to be replaced with, “a transformative new model of public safety”. Andrew Cuomo, governor of New York City, has agreed to shift funding from the New York Police Department (which has a 5.9 billion dollar budget) into programs for youth and social services.
In France, the killing of George Floyd has instigated protests, drawing over 20 000 participants, over the death of Adama Traore, who in 2016, died under circumstances similar to that of Mr. Floyd. There are also international movements to remove statues of colonialists and slave-traders, such as in Belgium, where protestors are demanding the removal of a statue commemorating King Leopold II, who is estimated to have been responsible for approximately 10 million deaths during his rule of the Congo. Black Lives Matter protestors in the United Kingdom have dumped a statue of Edward Colston, a British slave trader, into the River Avon. UK protestors have also defaced the Statue of Sir Winston Churchill which looms outside Parliament; it has since been boarded up. In the US, movements to remove statues of Confederate figures have been dominantly successful, as well as the removal of a statue of Christopher Columbus. There has also been a drive to rename US military bases that are named after confederates. This has been firmly rejected by Donald Trump who tweeted: “my Administration will not even consider the renaming of these Magnificent and Fabled Military Installations”. However, the US Senate has voted in favour of renaming the bases and the move has Republican support.
Some leaders across the world, such as Angela Merkel, of Germany, and Justin Trudeau, of Canada have expressed a degree of sympathy with the protestors, whilst Boris Johnson, of the UK, and Emmanuel Macron of France have expressed a slightly more conservative opinion of the protests, closer in line with that of Donald Trump. China and Russia have both pointed to the protests and the murder of George Floyd as examples of America’s “double standards”. Hua Chunying, the Director of the Foreign Ministry Information Department of China for the Chinese Communist Party said, “How would those politicians or media in the U.S. report it if this happened in China, Russia, or any other country?” The ANC has released a statement expressing solidarity with the protestors, but has fallen under fire from the EFF for responding to Mr. Floyd’s murder, but not to that of our own Collins Khosa.