Police brutality is not just a US problem

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Police brutality is not just a US problem

Amy Hall writes about why Black Lives Matter is an international problem.


Terrence Floyd, George Floyd's brother, speaks at his brother's memorial at Chicago Ave and E 38th St in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Credit: Lorie Shaull/Flickr

Police kill a black man as he tells them, ‘I can’t breathe’. The video of police officer Derek Chauvin led to mass protests across the US. In the video he kneels on George Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes, as he begs to be released.

Floyd’s death in Minneapolis, and the very slow response of the state to take legal action against his killers, was too much. It came after the killing of Ahmed Aubrey, a black man shot while out for a run. They charged someone with his murder only after a video of the killing went viral months later.

This came after police shot dead Breonna Taylor in her own home in March 2020. In May 2020, another video also went viral. In the video a white woman calls the police after a black birdwatcher Chris Cooper asked her to put her dog on a lead in Central Park, New York. She accused him of ‘threatening my life’. Cooper lived, but police have killed black people for less.

Racial events in the US, with its guns and now its white supremacist president, have again led to international protests as people insist that black lives matter.

For some people, this is a necessary reminder that yes, racism does still exist in 2020. For black people it’s a reminder that they are in danger if they are out jogging, birdwatching, or just at home. This is something which people now recognise across the world.

The UK is not innocent

Events in the US have again led to black people in the UK to explain that, yes, state racism and anti-black violence exists. In fact, in a way Britain invented it.

In recent weeks we’ve seen the terrible video of police in Manchester. They tasered a black man in front of his child at a petrol station. And, the UK government sells equipment such as tear gas to the US, which the police and the military use.

We are in the middle of a pandemic that is taking more black and brown lives in Britain, the US, and other countries. This is because of racism. Racist spit attacks against ethnic minorities are now another danger when they leave their homes.

Last week, British Transport Police said they would take no action about an attack on a railway ticket office worker, Belly Mujinga. She died from Covid-19 after a man spat at her when she was working. The man said he had the virus. The British Transport Police said the attack and her death weren’t connected. Activists spoke to the authorities and only then the Crown Prosecution Service looked at evidence about her death.

The use of force is more than two times likely in deaths of Black and Asian people arrested by police. For their families there is little or no legal help. After their deaths they will have trials by the media with photographs made to try to make them look more threatening. If the families try to fight for justice, the police will often spy on them.

Marcia Rigg’s brother Sean died in Brixton, South London, after police officers held him face down in 2008. Marcia has campaigned for justice for her brother. ‘All I could think about was Sean, because that’s exactly what they did to him,’ said Marcia Rigg in an interview with ELLE magazine after George Floyd was killed.

‘I can’t breathe

‘I can’t breathe’. These were also the last words of David Dungay Jr. He was a Dunghutti man. Six officers held him down in Australia in 2015. After protests, Prime Minister Scott Morrison warned against ‘importing the things that are happening overseas to Australia. We don’t need to compare those things there with here.’

Morrison forgot that importing white supremacist state violence is an important part of Australia’s history. It doesn’t help to tell Dungay’s family that there is ‘no need’ to compare his death with events in the US. And it doesn’t help to tell the families of over 430 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who have died after police arrest there since 1991.

‘I can’t breathe’. The same words came from Adama Traoré, a black man who died after police arrested him in Paris in 2016. His sister Assa reminded reporters about this at a mass protest against police brutality in Paris this week.

With all these angry protests, it is difficult to accept ministers of a racist UK Conservative government like Matt Hancock when they say, ‘black lives matter’ to the press. And it is difficult to accept London’s Metropolitan police asking for ‘justice’ for George Floyd on social media. It is insulting to hear this from institutions that are responsible for the deaths of black and brown people.

There has also been real support to help change. But we need to remember that the problem never went away. Fannie Lou Hamer said in 1964, ‘For three hundred years, we've given them time. And I've been tired so long, now I am sick and tired of being sick and tired, and we want a change.’ Black people carry with them hundreds of years of being tired.

So how can we change things? We must all learn and remember that the fight for black liberation is not over in other countries and it is not over here in the UK.

If you’re not black and want to know more about ways to support black people, you could start here with this guide: https://eewiki.newint.org/index.php?title=Six_ways_to_support

If you are white, it’s better to think that your black friend or family member has experienced some kind of racism. So before you start a conversation with them about it, remember that. And also check some of the information here: https://eewiki.newint.org/index.php?title=QUIZ:_Black_Lives_-_The_Facts

And remember - don’t worry too much about guilt and apologies. Think about how you can use your white privilege not necessarily by going on a protest but think how you can actually change the balance of power.

Class privilege isn’t going to stop black people experiencing racism or racist violence, but class is a big reason why black and brown people experience racism every day. And those of us with good incomes or more money must remember that. Working class black communities all over the world experience harassment from the police every day. They also experience worse health, stress, and poor housing.

We must resist racism, police brutality, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, and all the other things that make people feel in danger. And we must work together and fight.

NOW READ THE ORIGINAL: https://newint.org/features/2020/06/05/police-brutality-not-just-us-problem

(This article has been simplified so the words, text structure and quotes may have been changed)