The murder of George Floyd, an unarmed Black American, by a police officer after kneeling on his neck for about nine minutes, has been vehemently condemned.
It is no more a secret that racial violence has been a distinct part of American history since 1660. While it has impacted almost every ethnic and racial group in the United States, it has had a particularly horrific effect on African-American life. Such violence ranges from revolts of the enslaved to more recent urban uprisings. For more than one week and despite the prevailing pandemic situation, thousands of Americans have turned out en masse to express their indignation with regards to the manner with which some police officers handle cases, especially when a Black man is involved. For eight days, the entire USA has been gripped by fear following the murder of an unarmed 46-year-old Black Man by a white officer, Derek Chauvin, after kneeling on his neck for nearly nine minutes on May 25, 2020 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. In the video of the incident, George Floyd is heard yelling repeatedly "I can't breathe", before going motionless.
The peaceful protests that began in Minnesota on Friday and later spread to other states, cities, then degenerated to looting, burning and arrest, is today beyond borders. In North America, large crowds gathered in cities across Canada and in Mexico's capital, Mexico City. Protesters waved placards with the words "No justice! No peace!", "I can't breathe" and "Black lives matter". In South America, big crowds took to the streets of Brazil's second largest city Rio de Janerio and Argentina's capital, Buenos Aires. The European Union said it was "shocked and appalled" by the death of Floyd, calling it "an abuse of power" and warned against further excessive use of force. Thousands protested across several European cities, including Berlin, London and Amsterdam, defying coronavirus bans to show solidarity. In the Middle East, hundreds gathered in Tel Aviv, Haifa and East Jerusalem demanding "Justice for George" and in Asia-Pacific, rallies were held in several cities across Australia and New Zealand.
In Africa, sizable protests were held in Nigeria and Kenya, while the African Union issued a strongly worded statement condemning the killing of Floyd. US embassies in Kenya, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Zimbabwe also issued statements of concern over Floyd's death. The Forum of Former Heads of State and Government through a statement released by former Benin President Nicéphore Soglo, urged African countries to “raise a strong protest” to the killing and demand that the “perpetrators of this crime and all other crimes of this sort be punished in the strongest terms”.
Despite all these protests, there has not been any clear-cut condemnation by the United States higher authority. After sending several tweets considered provocative by many protesters, President Donald Trump on Monday, June 1, 2020 threatened to "quickly solve the problem" by deploying the military to quell growing civil unrest in the country, if cities and states failed to control the protests and "defend their residents". His address ignited more anger among the protesters who say they can’t leave the streets without the charging of all four police officers. Their cry has been heard by the Minnesota Governor who has appointed a Black Attorney General, Keith Ellison to handle the case. To set the ball rolling, the Attorney General extended charges to all the four police officers involved in the killing. While court documents and prosecutors said on Wednesday, the fired police officer Derek Chauvin who kneeled on Floyd’s neck has been charged with second-degree murder in addition to the third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter charges levelled against him last week. The new charge can carry a sentence of up to 40 years, 15 years longer than the maximum sentence for third-degree murder, according to court documents. The other three former officers who were involved in the incident, Thomas Lane, J Alexander Kueng and Tou Thao, face charges of aiding and abetting murder.
The arrests of all four officers was a key demand of protests. It is unclear whether the demonstrations will continue at a high level like last week though protesters are demanding justice not just for Floyd, but all black people who have been killed by police. Police and other law enforcement agencies have come under heavy criticism for the way they have responded to the protests, which have largely been peaceful, but have at times turned violent as night falls and curfews imposed. With the US presidential election in the horizon, any failure by the Trump administration to redress this issue rightly, might play negatively for him.
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