Fig 1: Left; George Floyd protests, Right; Coronavirus protests (From Left to right: Kerem Yucel, Nicholas Kamm, Stephen Maturen, and Jeff Kowlsky via Getty images)
We seem to be living in a world where armed white protesters complaining about being denied their right to freedom during a global pandemic are encouraged, whereas unarmed protesters of colour demonstrating about police brutality and racism are met with tear gas.
You’ve probably heard about both the George Floyd protests and the Coronavirus protests in the United States.
In case you haven’t, this is the gist: A video of a policeman, Derek Chauvin, leaning his full body weight onto the neck of a defenceless black man, George Floyd, has gone viral and sparked international outrage. People of all colours have begun gathering to protest against institutionalised racism within the law enforcement agencies in over 100 cities around the world. Notably: New York, Los Angeles, Toronto, Mashhad, Milan, Columbus, Ohio, Denver, Des Moines, Houston, Louisville; Memphis; Charlotte, North Carolina, Oakland, Portland, Oregon, San Jose, Seattle, outside the White House in Washington, and outside Chauvin's summer home in Windermere, Florida.
Fig 2: Tideordiechick on twitter
Police in the United States have reacted to these protests by using tear gas to disperse crowds (even children), driving into crowds, using rubber bullets (including on people filming peacefully from their porches), and beating unarmed protesters. One TikTok account alleged that the police may have deliberately placed an old cop car on a street in Los Angeles and set it alight after the protest had moved on, perhaps in an attempt to make the protesters seem more violent.
Fig 3: Victor J. Blue, NY Times
Additionally, reporters and journalists are being targeted by the police. The US Freedom tracker has reported over 100 press freedom violations within the US from May 29th to the 31st. These reporters are being threatened, sprayed in the face with pepper spray, charged at, and Linda Tirado, a photojournalist, was even blinded by a projectile.
On the 30th of May, Donald Trump made a statement praising the “overwhelming majority of police officers” who “keep our communities safe”. He then had the audacity to turn around and ask law enforcement officials to be more aggressive and “dominate” the protesters on a call with these officials on June the 1st. Make America Great Again? Sure.
Some news stations seem to be far more concerned about the Wendy’s that was burned to the ground or the Target that was looted. Considering that both are large business chains with assets of 4 to 41 million dollars (in 2019), should this really be the focus of any headline?
It’s a nightmare.
About a month ago, white Americans started their own protests against lockdown restrictions in over 30 states, many of these protesters coming equipped with assault rifles. One man even brought an axe.
Fig 4: A tweet from the Senator of Michigan’s 7th district expressing concern over the protesters that stormed the Michigan House Gallery.
In most videos of the scenes, Officers stand idly by. I found one reported instance of a woman being pushed by a police sergeant. Apparently, she hit her elbow on something and fell to the ground. Get this: The police department of Michigan themselves interviewed those involved with this incident, reviewed footage of what happened, used a photograph of this woman's arm as evidence of the incident, and planned to send this report off to determine if the woman has the right to press charges.
Fig 5: Michigan Live
Also, how incredibly ironic is it that protesters fighting against lockdown restrictions have been compared to Rosa Parks?
“(The Michigan demonstrators) are what happen when people of racial privilege confuse oppression with inconvenience. No one is treading on their rights. We’re all just trying to live.” - Brittany Packnett, a prominent national activist
People have begun comparing images and videos of the two events, and the difference is shocking.
“Black people get executed by police for just existing, while white people dressed like militia members carrying assault weapons are allowed to threaten State Legislators and staff.” - Rashida Tlaib Michigan's 13th district congresswoman on Twitter
The police have been displaying selective behaviour depending on the ethnicity of protesters. As one man thoughtfully put it:
“There are different sets of rules, there are different sets of consequences,” Rashad Robinson, the president of advocacy group Color of Change, told Vox Journalism.
The law enforcement in the United States (and in many countries around the world) has been corrupted with racist ideals. Institutionalised racism is real.
The anarchy we’re seeing on the news, the burned buildings and cars, and all the chaos is undoubtedly a product of this corruption. The fault lies in the hands of those in charge.
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Comparing the two protests:
George Floyd protests: