Riots in the United States

Since George Floyd, a black man, was killed by a white police officer in Minneapolis, Minnesota, we've seen cops arresting and beating up people for seemingly no good reason, driving their cars into a crowd, tear-gassing peaceful protesters and bystanders, and arresting and attacking journalists.

The New York Times puts it well: "Facing protests over use of force, police respond with more force."

And they are being egged on by President Donald Trump, who has described the protests as "acts of terror", called on governors to "dominate" the streets and threatened to deploy the military; Republican senators, who have urged the police to commit war crimes to suppress the protests; and conservative media, who portray all demonstrators as far-left radicals.

How does this end?


  • Two good stories I've read in the last few days:

    1. Is from the Spectator on the overreach of social-justice warriors and public shaming.
    2. Is a report in Politico from a wealthy black suburb of Detroit, where people have lost faith in the political system.

    I'm a cautious person. I worry about overreach and backlash. Trump's whole presidency is a backlash. I argued after the election that liberal America had unwittingly radicalized Trumpland.

    On the other hand, if even successful, well-off black people in America can't feel safe and respected, maybe this is an issue that needs a little bit of a revolution?

    From a distance, it seems to me that black rights and black prospects have for decades been subjugated to white fears and white anxieties. What progress there has been has been slow. And even that has gone too far for some whites.

    The good news is that, in the wake of George Floyd's murder, public opinion has swung behind Black Lives Matter and the cause of racial justice generally.

    The bad news is that Trump and Republicans are deliberately polarizing this issue for political gain, and people tend to take their beliefs from their political parties. It's not that hard to imagine this turning into a nationwide confrontation - if it isn't already.

  • It's already spreading (by lack of a better word) to other countries as well.

    To a degree I think this is good, because racism isn't just a thing of the US, and it needs to be dealt with, end of story.

    However, whilst it is important we speak about the cases of police brutality, I find it a little hard that they are painting a mural of George Floyd in the greater Brussels area, rather than one of the kids from Arab decent killed by the police. (That mural got completely vandalised with racist graffiti btw, which is horrid on its own). It's like all we hear about is the US victims, and the ones of people's own countries are being purposely forgotten.

    This shouldn't be about extremism and politics, this should be about making people's lives better.

    As for riots, we had some rioting at the Brussels march, where over 30 police offers got injured (the media didn't mention how many rioters got injured though) . The Antwerp protest on the Steenplein was completely peaceful, but afterwards people were loitering at a transport hub, refused to go home after police requested they do so several times and a bunch ended up being arrested. Pretty much all other protests were either never allowed from the get go because the mayors of those cities said "look we get it, but it's a pandemic, you'll have to protest some other time or organise a virtual one" or got cancelled after the Brussels riots because they didn't want any rioting in their towns.

    Of course now the majority in Belgium seems to be confused why BLM is even still a thing, which tells you everything about this banana republic of a country...

  • I do worry some of the copy-cat protests in Europe are taking their context and language too much from the US.

    Clearly there's racism in European countries as well. Just look at our politicians, business leaders, most media personalities - overwhelmingly white.

    We can also find evidence of racial inequality in crime, income and welfare statistics. Although I doubt that can be entirely attributed to racism; I suspect socio-economic factors play a role, owing to cultural differences and migrant backgrounds. It's not usual for it to take a few generations before migrant populations catch up with the native population. First- and second-generation Irish and Italians in the United States were also poor (and discriminated against).

  • I do agree that people at the top are majorly speaking white, but... this is Europe, where white people are in the majority. Statistically speaking, if you have mostly white people, well it's normal you'll have most of them in positions full stop, not just positions of power.

    That said, that should be the ONLY reason for the majority. People of colour should absolutely have equal chances to get in whatever position they want to be in life (job, politics, etc).

    I also agree that socio-economic factors are a contributing factor. It's definitely a combination of many things, of which racism is often one, but definitely not the only issue. And all of these issues need to be dealth with so we can have a properly equal opportunity society.

  • After yet another unarmed black man was shot by police (in the back), calls to "defund the police" are growing louder in the United States.

    I looked into the numbers and was surprised to discover:

    • Police are responsible for one in twelve violent deaths in America.
    • Nearly one in two victims of a police shooting are mentally ill or under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
    • Crime and police deaths have come down while police violence has gone up.
    • There are huge discrepancies in pay. Police officers in Democratic-ruled California and New York make as much as $100,000 per year. The national average is $67,600. Southern states, which are governed by Republicans, pay less. Mississippi only pays half the national average.
    • States that pay their police officers well have lower crime and lower police violence than states that underpay their police officers.
    • Police spend only 4 percent of their time on violent crime. Yet the bulk of their training is set aside for it. Police are hardly trained in conflict management and mediation.
    • Police training in the US is much shorter than in Europe.

    The answer, it seems to me, is not to defund the police, but to pay -- and train -- officers well.

    More: Don't Defund the Police

  • I think a lot of the problem with urban policing in the US is that when you get down to it they're doing a job that they weren't trained to do: acting as an occupational force in a war zone.

    Many poor urban communities (which are often majority-black) are economically depressed and have little sense of connection with the broader city, which makes them susceptible to large gang problems. I did my university seminar paper on how urban municipalities can stop the process of terrorist radicalization, and one of my findings was that organized crime and terrorist groups act very similarly, with the main difference being how ideologically tinged the organization is.

    When you get down to it, having your humvee be blown up by an IED on the side of the road and having your car be wrecked by a drive-by shooting aren't that fundamentally different.

    So that's the problem: American police departments are having the same issues that the US Army was having in Baghdad in 2004. It's one reason I suspect that so many police departments are being militarized: they are performing a task that is traditionally done by militaries.

    The solution, or least part of it, is to help these communities economically so that they are less likely to be suspect to the poverty that breeds crime. At some level, I think that police violence and gang violence in these communities are two sides of the same coin.

  • I'm not sure I agree with the warzone analogy, but I've only lived in Manhattan and hardly seen any other part of the US with my own eyes.

    I do very much agree police are asked to do work they aren't trained for.

    Partly that's because their training is poor. It's too focused on teaching cadets how to fire a weapon and drive a vehicle, and not enough on dealing with domestic disturbances, drug abuse, homeless people and the mentally ill, which and who take up the majority of police officers' time. (Nationally, that is. In the sort of neighborhoods you describe, that might be different.)

    Partly it's because social work in the US is underfunded and understaffed, so a lot of problems that would be caught by educators, social workers and other civil servants don't get addressed until they become a police issue.

    Cycles of poverty and violence seem to be part of the problem as well.

    It's a hugely complex issue that doesn't lend itself to easy solutions.

  • Well recently it has turned out that big city cops (and our big cities aren't big at all!) in Belgium aren't opposed to police brutality resulting in death. I agree with Nick though, defunding isn't the sollution, training them better is.

    Also: sacking and locking up psycho's with a badge, rather than putting them on paid leave. Some cops are just rotten, and it needs to be said. They need to properly dealth with, so the cops that are doing their job properly can be left to do so.

  • Of course! There needs to be accountability.

    In the US, a big obstacle are the police unions, which have made it almost impossible to fire officers.

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