Let’s hope Minneapolis cop Derek Chauvin is convicted of murder as charged. Let’s hope this beast of a man who asphyxiated George Floyd in a sickening display of police brutality is incarcerated for life.
Let’s hope the protests in the streets of Minneapolis and elsewhere, less violent ones, continue for weeks and months if necessary to keep this repugnant story in the public eye and emblazoned in the mind of every cop who ever arrests a black man again.
The broad-daylight killing of Mr. Floyd dramatically worsens the racial divide in the United States. It has been intensifying since Barack Obama left office.
But this act, this killing, this “execution” as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi calls it, was so appalling, so public, so massively wrong that maybe, just maybe, it can serve to educate U.S. public opinion in a way that might finally make a difference.
No one with half a mind can side with the police on this one. Even other police forces are speaking out against the suffocation of Mr. Floyd. “Nothing short of murder,” said District of Columbia Police Chief Peter Newsham. “Shocking to the conscience,” said Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo, the president of the Major Cities Chiefs Association.
“The death of George Floyd must serve as a national call for action,” he said. Amen to that.
In the United States, black people are three times as likely to be killed by police as whites. The Floyd death followed the police killing in March of 26-year-old Breonna Taylor, a medical technician shot eight times in Louisville, Ky. Protests have broken out in that city. Her death followed the shooting of Ahmaud Arbery in the same month by two white men, one a former police officer. They pursued Mr. Arbery, who was jogging, in a pickup truck and shot him. They told police they believed Mr. Arbery was a burglar. His death prompted an outcry, but nothing of the order of what is happening today.
Other cases of police violence against African-Americans usually involve at least a supposed justification of sorts, as flimsy as it may be.
But not in the case of Mr. Floyd, who could be heard pleading that he couldn’t breathe while Mr. Chauvin ground his knee into his neck and three other officers stood watching as he lost consciousness. Mr. Floyd had not resisted arrest. Police were called after someone accused him of the petty crime of trying to pass a counterfeit $20 bill.
Understandable was the response of football player Colin Kaepernick, who gained notoriety for not standing for the national anthem to protest against racial suppression in his country. “Revolting is the only logical reaction,” he said.
“People all across this country are enraged and rightly so,” said presumptive Democratic nominee for president Joe Biden. “Every day, African-Americans go about their lives with constant anxiety and trauma of wondering, ‘Will I be next?’ Sounds like an exaggeration, but it’s not.”
Minneapolis is nominally a liberal city, but its police department has had a terrible record in the treatment of minorities. Minnesota senator Amy Klobuchar, a former prosecutor in the state, declined to prosecute many police officers cited for excessive force, including Mr. Chauvin. Her chances of becoming Mr. Biden’s running mate are now doomed.
The country needs a calming, unifying voice from its leader at this moment, but predictably, it is getting the opposite. President Donald Trump berated the demonstrators as “THUGS” on Twitter, threatened military intervention by the National Guard and suggested looting would lead to “shooting.”
While there is nothing wrong with condemning looting, some accused Mr. Trump of promoting violent retaliation against protesters. Twitter flagged his post for violating rules against glorifying violence.
Mr. Trump has stoked racial division while in office. He urged congresswomen of colour to go back to their “crime-infested countries.” He referred to Haiti and African nations as “shithole countries.” He talked about “very fine people on both sides” in response to violence at a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Va. He questioned basketball megastar’s LeBron James’s intelligence.
All the while he’s claimed that he is “the least racist person there is anywhere in the world.”
The rage in Minneapolis and across the country is similar to, although worse than, the response to the police killing of 18-year-old Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., six years ago. That was when a black president was in office. Even Mr. Obama couldn’t make much of a difference.
What’s transpiring on the smoke-filled streets, said Minneapolis mayor Jacob Frey, is a reflection of the black community’s anger resulting from 400 years of inequality.
Four hundred years, and yet so many in an America where white nationalism has been rising still don’t get it.
Hopes therefore must be tempered now. But the Floyd murder has hit the country with such earthquake force that maybe even some of the most blind will finally open their bigoted eyes.
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