Lessons to be drawn from mass protests in US
The killing of George Floyd, an African American, at the hands of police in Minneapolis has triggered an unprecedented wave of protests against the United States administration which has already spread country-wide and beyond.
It’s not the first time that an unarmed African American is being killed by law enforcement in the U.S. and it’s not the first time that the black communities are protesting police violence. The weeks-long protests in reaction to the killing of a black teenager in August 2014 in St. Louis, Missouri by a white cop, known as Ferguson Unrest, are still fresh in the memories of those who are closely following U.S. politics.
Unlike the Ferguson Unrest, the blatant killing of Floyd, whose last words were “I can’t breathe,” is no longer a local American issue which can be explained as another bitter example of systemic racism.
Those who are hitting the streets of Minneapolis, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York City, London, Athens, or Wellington are not just expressing their anger over racist discrimination but also inequalities in the economy, health, education, and unemployment as well as the unfair distribution of income.
Obviously, COVID-19 and its impacts on the economic and social lives of the masses have a multiplying effect on the protests. Roughly 35 million Americans have filed for jobless aid in the past three months since the pandemic forced millions of companies to slash their workforces. Millions of Americans, who have no proper health insurance, were the most affected – physiologically and physically – from the outbreak. The brutal murder of Floyd has just served as the final straw.
Another important parameter concerning this social movement is that it comes just months before the U.S. presidential elections between President Donald Trump and his Democrat rival Joe Biden.
Trump seems to try to use the protests by further antagonizing his dissidents so that he can consolidate his nationalist-conservative roots at the expense of further polarizing the American nation. That would be the only way for him to reverse his tarnished public support due to his totally inept tackling of the coronavirus.
He has shown little interest in conciliation since the start of the protests, to the contrary, he is threatening to use the military should the unrest not stop, adding fuel to the flames.
Using tear gas and police force to disperse peaceful protesters outside the White House so that he can walk to a nearby church and pose for a photo with a Bible is just another example of how he knows no boundaries in exploiting people’s religious sentiments and values for a political gain.
The swelling protests marred by violence and looting have so far left six policemen injured in different parts of the U.S., with concerns that Trump’s inflammatory speeches and statements could make things worse in the coming days.
What’s happening in the U.S. should be exemplary to the rest of the world, especially at a time when billions of people are suffering from dire economic and health problems due to the pandemic. These are the days when the leaders should pay the utmost attention to the sensitivities of the people who are full of strong emotions. Conciliation, compromise, dialogue and tolerance are most needed in these difficult days to calm the masses down.