The Belgian National Collective of DiEM25 stands in solidarity with the protesters of Minneapolis.
A train with the words ‘I can’t breathe’ passed through Belgium a couple of days ago. As the injustice of the murder of George Floyd has made news around the world, people are demanding an end to police brutality and racial discrimination. Another victim of police brutality against black and brown people, George Floyd’s name joins that of Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Trayvon Martin, Tamir Rice, and countless more.
This crisis is piled onto the current employment and health crises in the US, the combination of which has showcased the state’s blatant disregard for human life.
The maneuver that was used by police officer Derek Chauvin is discouraged and even largely banned by most law enforcement agencies. Nevertheless, it was taught to officers in Minneapolis as an appropriate form of ‘restraint’. But the video clearly showcases that this brutal form of restraint by the officers was conducted with a dangerous insouciance for human suffering. During the 9 minutes, George Floyd is seen pleading to breathe. As Black Lives Matter and others state, this constitutes a serious crime.
Much of the media coverage has focused on the rioting and looting that has taken place in Minneapolis and in states across the country. But there have been many peaceful protests held across the country, such as in Harlem where hundreds of sitting protesters chanted ‘No Justice, No Peace’. Movement leaders have also been seen protecting businesses from being looted with human chains, redirecting activists to peaceful protest. In an emotional speech, Killer Mike called for political mobilisation over destruction, despite the anger that is resonating across communities in the US and abroad:
“It is your duty not to burn your own house down for anger with an enemy. (…) Now is the time to plot, plan, strategise, organise and mobilise.”
The police forces’ own behavior can also be considered rioting behavior, as has been claimed by some. In civilian videos, they are seen kicking peaceful protesters in the face, throwing them to the ground, and even macing children. Activists and reporters have been shot by rubber bullets, whilst others lost an eye. Police vehicles have even been used to attack and disperse crowds.
Staff members from news agencies are notably being targeted in what looks like a concerted effort by police to intimidate and brutalise citizens without any documentation of their actions. Reporters and production crew from the LA Times, Wall Street Journal, CNN, and MSNBC have been thrown to the ground, and persecuted by tear gas at point blank range as well as ‘unidentified explosives’.
It is unclear whether police forces are being given undue leniency within their own structures or whether factions of police officers are being created through the chaos. Most likely, the resulting violence is a dangerous mix of the two. It must be said that several police sheriffs and officers in other states have been sighted kneeling for George Floyd and marching with protesters — signalling an existing divide within law enforcement agencies. Meanwhile, violent police militias, encouraged by President Trump, have begun terrorising neighborhoods by shooting unarmed civilians at their doorsteps with paint pellets if they do not go back inside their homes.
Predator drones — usually used in warfare or to surveil the border — have also been spotted flying over Minneapolis. In states like Orlando, police are considered ‘outside agitators’ as they are exerting their violence in communities other than their own. Although Joe Biden has released a statement on the event, he has failed to denounce the actions of the police against citizens. By not doing so, he is failing black communities everywhere.
Progressive activists in the United States and around the world are supporting the people of Minneapolis by launching their own actions calling for justice.
Thousands marched through police on the Manhattan bridge in New York, and President Trump retreated into a bunker as demonstrations grew around the White House in Washington. Protests are filling the streets of London and Toronto, and Iranians are holding a vigil for George Floyd — to name but a few. Actions against police forces in the United States have begun to take place, either through the jamming of their walkie talkies with Yugoslavian music, or DDoS attacks on their websites by Anonymous.
The demands of activists partaking in the current George Floyd protests are still emerging, but activists have already called to defund the police. Not only have body cameras and other initiatives already failed to protect black and brown communities, but protesters are also noticing the stark difference between how their police and hospitals are resourced. While police officers wear paramilitary gear, protesters reflect on how “some doctors in our hospitals are still wearing garbage bags for PPE.”
At DiEM25, we understand police brutality as yet another symptom of a society whose structural violence is already manifested in starvation wages, unpaid work leaves and vast unemployment, and racial discrimination. Rioting and looting is expected as a response to a society focused on profit and no longer on the welfare of its people. During the pandemic, governments have bailed out banks and big business instead of working people and their communities. Alex S. Vitale rightly states in The End of Policing that “No bankers have been jailed for the 2008 financial crisis despite widespread fraud and the looting of the American economy, which resulted in mass unemployment, homelessness, and economic dislocation.”
We stand against racial profiling and discrimination everywhere.
The Belgian National Collective of DiEM25 condemns the racist ideology rendered more visible and present under President Trump, and the police brutality that is terrorising protesters and reporters in the United States.
Stories of racial profiling and police provocation are not rare in Belgium. Police controls conducted on Moroccan youth have resulted in recent deaths, such as that of Adil and Mehdi Bouda. We therefore also condemn the ongoing police brutality and the racial discrimination of black and brown people in Belgium. The Belgian government must tackle racism in its own country as a matter of urgency.
To support activists and be an ally, consider donating using the links below:
BLACK LIVES MATTER: An organisation fighting for the BLM movement.
BLACK VISIONS MN: an organisation that is led by Black, Queer and Trans people.
NAACP Legal Defense Fund: Fights for the overall equality fight.
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