The largely nonviolent protests have continued onwards for over a week in the United States of America now.
These have been some of the largest protests in the history of the United States with an enormous amount of pressure put on public officials, law enforcement, and fellow citizens in America and then around the world with a cascade of largely nonviolent protests in reaction to the murder of African American George Floyd. Within 8 to 9 minutes, one can watch Floyd murdered, undeniable brutality.
Many African Americans have been considered lesser-than for a long time by the nature of ethnic heritage and dint of skin colour. It shows up in the educational statistics, in the criminal justice system, in the average wealth disparities between ethnic groups in the United States, and in disproportionate use of excessive force by police officers against black Americans with an emphasis on black men. By implication, the internal narrative of the United States is black bodies mean less, equal less, and become more disposable than others.
On May 25, it may have been the largest single-day mobilization of protests in the entire history of the United States while the coronavirus pandemic still rages, which every well-informed citizen is knowledgeable about here. In that, the masks were worn, sure, but the risks would be high for anyone taking part in large protests with implied close proximity with other protestors or even police officers. People braved the pandemic to make a point – to have a more just society.
There have been some spats of arson, assault, and various smash-and-grab raids. However, this is neither a trend nor the majority of protests. In fact, these are more the outliers based on more authoritative reportage. Some of the protests, in fact, included police officers and protestors marching together in solidarity.
As has been some of the complaints, recently, some trends have arisen out of a common response woodwork with #AllLivesMatter and #BlueLivesMatter as an ill-considered attempt to respond to the #BlackLivesMatter movement founded by three black queer women: Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors, and Opal Tometi.
When reading #BlackLivesMatter, some can read this as #OnlyBlackLivesMatter, which can be one reading, though incorrect, of the movement; however, with some more thought, we can see the rejection of the “only” as part of the hashtag because of the emphasis on black lives rather than the exclusion of other lives. In that, we come to the straightforward “aha!” of the movement meaning an emphasis on black lives due to the disproportionate violence, state and otherwise, against black bodies, African American citizens.
If there was a movement of every life mattering, what would be the traction? Of course, this ground zero for standard ethics without a Divine Right of Kings, slaves and slave masters/owners, and grounded in a modern day ethic with international (secular) human rights. Everyone acquires equal human rights, in theory, based on birth as a human being, not some God-given or asserted divine rights. They don’t exist universally as human rights exist universally. In this sense, modern ethical guidelines exist more generally in human cultures and international institutions than the purported God-given rights from the faiths of the world, including the major faiths covering about half of the population of the Earth in Christianity and Islam. Thus, it seems a straightforward observation that “transcendent” or “God-given” rights are, in fact, human constructed, human-given, and more parochial (and less justifiable) than international human rights. All life matters; and, we’ve known this for a long time, especially institutionally and with the formalization of universal rights with international secular human rights applicable to everyone, in principle.
The other misunderstanding or improper response comes from #BlueLivesMatter. As someone cut from the same cloth as me, Dave Chappelle, pointed out, it’s a blue suit, neither an ethnic heritage nor a skin colour. If you don’t like the situation, then you can change the job and can get a new suit.
With some of these clarifications, I am heartened to see protestors and police alike using masks to keep safe during protests over the murder of George Floyd and in making a modern global movement for criminal justice reform.
In spite of the largely peaceful protests, some of the violent incidents have been with clashes in London and in Marseille, France, even flash bang devices and pepper spray used to disperse protestors, while the protestors were hurling bottles and rocks with some “improvised explosives” too.
Some of the largest protests have taken part in Washington with protestors pouring into the streets closed off to traffic. Some turned the area into a dance floor. Pamela Reynolds, a 37-year-old African American teacher said that she wants a federal ban on chokeholds and body cameras as mandatory on police officers while on duty.
At the White House, new fencing and security measures were put into place, while President Donald Trump argued for a crackdown on the unrest, or the protestors, all the time downplaying the demonstrations themselves.
In Virginia, a Confederate statue was toppled. It was up since 1891. There is some reportage of urination on the statue after being toppled. It was on its pedestal in Monroe Park and was of Gen. Williams Carter Wickham. Descendants of Wickham argued for taking down the statue in 2017.
As The Associated Press stated, “Tens of thousands of protesters marched worldwide in what could be the biggest one-day mobilization against racial injustice since a white Minneapolis police officer pressed a knee into Floyd’s neck for several minutes. Even after a week of the most significant protests the U.S. has seen in a generation, Saturday’s crowds stood out. Protesters held signs with slogans saying “Black Lives Matter” and “No Justice No Peace” during marches that were peaceful, sometimes even festive, after previous days had devolved in chaos. Police sometimes joined protesters, kneeling in a show of solidarity.”
So it goes.
With files from The Associated Press.