Start with more than four centuries of brutal white racism towards African Americans. Note the fact that “since Jan 1, 2015, 1,252 black people have been shot and killed by [US] police” and that this figure omits those who died in police custody or were killed using other methods. On average, that is approaching one black person killed every day and, again, that is solely by shooting.
Next add in the world’s highest death toll from Covid-19. As of 2 June, the United States had 107,000 deaths. People of colour are by far over-represented, as they are in the UK. Then count in the 40 million Americans now out of work for many weeks. And never forget that a serious economic recession looms in a country with a very leaky social safety net.
Finally, put an unrepentant racist in charge who is focused unblinkingly on winning re-election in the November 2020 presidential elections. The result: the stakes in the 25 May murder by police in Minneapolis, US, of an unarmed African American, George Floyd, 46, are being raised, hour by hour, both across the US and the world.
Trump’s America is currently a cauldron. The “F” word is being used more and more frequently. Tweeted a moderate Democratic senator from Oregon on Monday: “The fascist speech Donald Trump just delivered verged on a declaration of war against American citizens.” Some sections of the US ruling class are reportedly asking: Have we had enough of Trump?
Yes, Martin Luther King Jr. was quite correct, in his oft-quoted comment of more than 50 years ago, that “a riot is the language of the unheard.”
But this rapidly-spreading explosion of the past eight days is about far more than riots or looting. Anger and rage are widespread. The number of black, brown and white people – especially younger people – linking arms in peaceful protest is noticeable (and encouraging) in what observers are calling the widest on-the-streets rebellion in the US since 1968, the year King was assassinated.
In a terrific, but brief, interview, Cornel West, a Harvard University professor and a leading African American commentator, said the nationwide uprising was the sign of an “Empire imploding.”
On Monday night (1 June), Trump threatened to bring in the US military to “dominate the streets” and shut down the protests. But 24 hours later, tens of thousands marched peacefully in Washington, D.C. holding up “Black Lives Matter” placards and chanting “hands up, don’t shoot.”
Trump is, as well, facing push back from the police and others. About Trump, the police chief of Houston, Texas – a state noted more for rednecks than reds – said in a nationwide television interview: “If you can’t be constructive, keep your mouth shut. This isn’t the Apprentice!” The mayor of New York City said he did not want the National Guard mobilised in his city because “no good” happens when an outside military force occupies it. The EU’s top diplomat called Floyd’s killing “an abuse of power.” Boris Johnson has been silent.
It is hard to predict where this movement is going and how long it will last. As of 2 June, there had been demonstrations and rallies held to protest the killing of George Floyd in more than 400 cities and towns around the world. Overnight curfews in many US cities are being deliberately violated or being cancelled because they are ineffective.
The movement has gone global. Take what is happening in Liverpool. On Monday, 29 members of Liverpool Football Club “took the knee” in solidarity at their training session this week. On Tuesday evening, thousands attended a Black Lives Matter rally on Merseyside.
Online, a social “Justice for George” art show has been established by the mainstream media. (I have heard there are also radical art shows, but haven’t located them yet.) Not only is there a posthumously-created Wikipedia entry for Floyd himself, but also one focused solely on “George Floyd protests”.
Two members of the Green Party, one from George Floyd’s home state of Minnesota in the US and the other from our party in England and Wales, give us their reflections.
Knee on the neck of Black Americans for 400 years
On Memorial Day 2020 Officer Chauvin, now a former police officer of the Minneapolis Police Department (MPD), murdered George Floyd in the state of Minnesota where I live. The former officer kept his knee on George Floyd’s neck for eight terrorizing minutes, which ultimately led to the death of Mr Floyd. This event was live streamed by a Minneapolis resident on Facebook where you can hear community members telling the officer to stop because they knew he was killing Mr Floyd. Officer Chauvin and the other officers involved have been fired from the MPD and Officer Chauvin was formally charged with third degree murder.
The livestream of Mr Floyd’s death has sparked outrage and has led to civil disobedience across America and protest around the world. Many Black Americans and others are angry, but not surprised about what happened because the US Government has had its knee on the neck of Black Americans for 400 years. This is why Green Party policies like Reparations for the Descendants of Slavery in America are so important. They call for cessations and to stop the wrong and harm America is doing to its black citizens via white supremacy and institutional racism. They aim as well to address the wealth gap, including past and present injustices in the US against African Americans.
These incidents are traumatizing to the black community nationwide and even throughout the diaspora. Mr Floyd was loved by his family, his community and often is referred to as a gentle giant with a kind heart. The community he is from and the world at large will continue to show love and support to the family of George Floyd. This is the time to commit to keep up the fight against institutional racism so that it doesn't continue to happen at home and abroad.
Trahern Crews is a member of Green Party of the United States as well as co-chair and organiser for Black Lives Matter, Minnesota, US.
Solidarity with those in the US sharing the same sense of pain and fear
The snake that is systemic racism, systematic oppression, and police brutality against black people in the US has once again shown its head with the murder of George Floyd by white police officers acting under the guise of "protect and serve". As we have done so many times over recent years and decades, the black community sought answers, justice and equality. And as Martin Luther King Jr. and the Civil Rights Movement marched on Washington 57 years ago for black equality, once again the community marches in protest of police brutality, inequality and oppression to seek justice for George Floyd and the many others shot down, beaten down and asphyxiated at the hands of the white establishment.
These protests, however, seem to have fallen on deaf ears. It was only when the protests turned loud, and ugly, and violent, and there were riots that inconvenienced the lives of those in charge that we began to see any action starting to take place. A charge was brought against the MPD officer Derek Chauvin, seemingly reluctantly despite the murder being filmed and shared worldwide. And while the eyes of the world are on them, the Land of the Free still saw pointless and damaging debate over the cause of death. Once again, there is resistance to using their energy to take a deep look at the ever-rotting foundations of a corrupt and racist system that is embedded with the blood of black slaves and epitomised by Jim Crow, segregation, red-lining and mass incarceration.
While President Trump brings out the National Guard and the military to subdue the people back into the state of negative peace that has been enjoyed by the white establishment for decades, the escalation continues. "But he's been charged, is that not justice enough? What more could you want? This is just an excuse for rioting, looting and mass civil disobedience!”, I hear you say. Using the world's strongest military force on the civilian population instead of trying to understand and address their concerns effectively is indicative of a corrupt and stubborn system where the failure to recognise that it is not only the murder of one man that is the issue, but that George's murder is representative of the systematic oppression of many men simply due to the degree of pigmentation in their skin. The black community is tired of kneeling for change, asking for change, begging for change. The people are knocking on the doors of the aptly named White House calling for a change in the status-quo of white racial supremacy in US society. This has reached combustion point, a point from which hopefully, we will not return without true change and justice for the victims of this unfair system.
We must stand in solidarity with the black community in the US. And while the police don't routinely shoot blacks down in the UK, this doesn't mean the systemic racism isn't there in its many other forms. The British portrayal of racism is indeed very British. No, we aren't as segregated as the US, and yes, mass lynchings were not common events. However, the ideas of colonialism, black inferiority, black aggression, violence, and inherent danger are just as endemic in our "Keep Calm and Carry On" country. Whether it be racial profiling by the police, over-representation in the prison population, the Windrush Scandal, the disproportionate number of deaths to Covid-19, or a certain former London Mayor describing African people as having “watermelon smiles” or comparing women in burqas to ‘“letter boxes”, these attitudes plague our system.
We have taken to protests in solidarity with those in the US sharing the same sense of pain and fear. Our only task now is to ensure that an open and constructive conversation can take place to understand and address British institutional racism for an equal society.
Darrell Powell is a member of the Green Party of England and Wales and a member of Greens of Colour.
Here are two things you can do to support this important cause:
1) Watch for and attend rallies and demonstrations in your local town or city (while remembering to practice social distancing);
2) Make a contribution to the UK Black Lives Matter crowd funder which, as of 8am. on 3 June, had raised more than £74,000 only 15 hours after it was established.
This editorial package was put together by regular Green World contributor Alan Story of Sheffield.