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Let’s Burn the Whole Thing Down: Death, Protest and George Floyd

Mobs are unruly, headless things. The message is the action. The platform is often violence. But what is happening across the United States cannot simply be labelled as a looting-leads-to-shooting episode. It ranks as another chapter of enraged despair and untidy opportunism.

It all began with a savage act in South Minneapolis, a killing grotesque for its indifference. The hunter in this gruesome Monday spectacle of cruelty proved to be a policeman from the 3rd Police Precinct, Derek Chauvin; the quarry, a black man by the name of George Floyd. As Floyd was held down by the knee for almost nine minutes, suffocating to death as he pleaded for his life, the Chauvin impassively went about his deadly task. The pulse ceased.

A country began to spasm, though it first began with a peaceful march of sorrow at the corner store next to the site of Floyd’s arrest. With the United States topping the global chart in coronavirus deaths, with numerous parts of the country easing lockdown restrictions as unemployment has surged, the release over the week became atavistic, vengeful. Mixed in were also protests of desperate sadness and anger, with sentiment very much against violence as a weapon of choice. Police were attacked but in other cases, notably that of Genesee County Sheriff Chris Swanson in Flint, Michigan, they joined protests and expressed a wounded solidarity.

Buildings were left burning; stores destroyed and looted. Curfews were imposed. The National Guard was called out – in Minneapolis, for the first time since the Second World War. Tear gas and rubber bullets have been used liberally. Vehicles have been driven into protesters in Minneapolis and New York City. In the chaos, even a crew from CNN was arrested. A fog of militarisation has descended heavily.

The panoramic violence provided sustenance for every interpretation on cause and inspiration. There was the civic-society hating hooligan said to be in the ascendancy; the daring, incendiary white supremacist having a go; the antagonised Black American furious and redressing grievances; the foreign agitator keen to exploit divisions.

Minnesota Governor Tim Walz’s own assessment put the blame on agitators from out of state who cared not one jot for the demise of Floyd. Justice for him, and any endeavours to achieve it for the slain resident, did not “matter to any of these people who are here firing upon the National Guard, burning” businesses and “disrupting civil life.” In agreement, Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey dismissed any idea that this was a local poison, making its way through the body of the city. “The people that are doing this are not Minneapolis residents. They are coming in largely from outside of the city, from outside of the region to prey on everything that we have built over the last several decades.”

Such diagnoses ignore the scarring caused by killings inflicted since 2016. Floyd’s death was the fifth caused by police forces since 2018. The norm, generally speaking, has seen those involved spared charges. As Hugh Eakin observes on such prevalent impunity, “Behind such a dismal record of failed accountability, there is now a widespread sense that structural racism in the city’s administration and law enforcement runs deep.” Charges of third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter have been filed, but will they stick? Hennepin County Prosecutor Mike Freeman was pleased to note that this was “by far the fastest that we’ve ever charged a police officer.”

Then there was the Trump administration’s own stretched interpretation, presenting it with a chance to settle a long-standing score. In a divided country, you take to barricades rather than remove them. “The United States of America will be designating ANTIFA as a Terrorist Organization,” came the aggressive tweet from President Donald Trump. A flavour of what is to come was also given by Trump’s ever loyal US Attorney General William Barr on Sunday. “The violence instigated and carried out by Antifa and other similar groups in connection with the rioting is domestic terrorism and will be treated accordingly.” Such measures are likely to fall foul of the Constitution, but that is a procedural irrelevance in the game of electioneering rhetoric. Trump’s point is to show that the US is broken, and that he is the best manager of a ruined MAGA Republic.

 

The brutality and poignancy of this Minnesota decline into pyromanic purgatory and tear-stained sorrow was captured by the words of rapper Killer Mike, a man who professes to having “a lot of love and respect for police officers,” being the son of one. “I watched a white police officer assassinate a black man. And I know it tore your heart out.”

At a press conference with Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, he felt “duty-bound to be here to simply say that it is your duty not to burn down your house for anger with an enemy.” Fortify it, he suggested with biblical intonation, “so that you way be a house of refuge in times of organization.” But it was the words that followed that bring the matter into crystalline focus. Unalloyed anger; a desire to build from the ashes, was vital. To have purpose and worth, you needed to burn the whole thing down. Killer Mike’s suggestion, as you preserve your own home, is to take the matches to the system itself, one “that sets up for systemic racism.” Prosecute the offenders; get convictions. Unfortunately for him, that distinction may prove too fine in the groans and recoil that follows. Justice for Floyd, even before it starts in earnest, has already been eclipsed.

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13 comments

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  1. Kerri

    The CNN arrest was not “amid the chaos” like the pepper shooting of a reporter and heavily armed and protected law enforcers shooting directly at a family filming from their front porch.
    These actions are not accidental the police and National Guard alike now fear the repercussions if their actions are filmed.
    Chauvin had no fear of repercussion as he had form in this area.

  2. jimbo

    will aloha scotty offer to send ‘australia’s’ police specialist aboriginal murderers to assist his kkk luv maga u$a monster boy??

  3. New England Cocky

    What happened in the USA (United States of Apartheid) after the George Floyd murder by policeman Derek Chauvin is the recurrence of everything about white supremacy and the Euro-Caucasian minority clinging onto their present position of power and prestige that they know is slipping away as the Latinos, AfroAmerican and all other now “minorities” increase in numbers that will eclipse the present dominant enslavers by about 2050.

    The neofascists in the USA and Australia are in control of democratically elected governments and weild that power for the personal pecuniary interests of their supporters and especially the political financial donors. No party donation, no political favours. Democracy at its worst.

  4. Matters Not

    So the Failed State fails again! Nobody should be surprised. Where to from here? Most probably just more of the same.

  5. Jack Cade

    The National Guard is probably itching to try out its weaponry on a poorly armed adversary. It hasn’t had a chance since Kent State.
    The US started importing black slaves in 1619. In British ships, via Liverpool and Bristol. Beatle fans (I’m looking at you, Michael) are probably unaware that the Cavern of the Mersey sound still had rings on the walls where the unfortunates were kept, chained up, before embarking to the New World.
    A new works with old world ideas that have never changed.
    The British are said to have invented concentration camps in the Boer War. Nobody seems to remember that the US had concentration camps in the Civil War. And treated what were ostensibly their brothers almost as badly as the Nazis treated the inmates of their camps.
    There is nothing of which the US is not capable.

  6. pat daly

    The ruling elite have failed to gauge the depth of dispair and fear in a great many of the American people .This is a country of accessable weapons ,splitting into groups with the police and government seen as the aggressors. The USA is on a dangerous course and a civil war is a possiability

  7. DrakeN

    Essentially, johno, it is an example of the cowardice displayed by many who take up badges of authority.
    Four hefty men to control one fellow who may, or may have not, committed a minor crime.
    It is endemic in institutions where people of low intellectual capabilities and educational shortcomings are chosen by those who wish to control other people to do their dirty work for them.
    As usual, those who bully are often those who have been bullied and suffered at the hands of others because of their stupidity and lack of social skills.
    They are a legalised equivalent of the bikey gangs and urban putsches, who are, in turn, controlled by others manipulating them from the shadows.

  8. New England Cocky

    @Jack Cade; “There is nothing of which the US is not capable.” Agreed. This was well demonstrated with the role played by the CIA in the Dismissal of the Whitlam government in 1975. Nothing has changed. The myth of the USA (United States of Apartheid) being the saviour of Australia in WWII conveniently overlooks to military necessity of America requiring a secure land base from which to launch operations against Japan after Pearl Harbour to institute Macarthur’s island hopping strategy into Japan. Look at the geography of the time; nowhere else was big enough or secure enough to fill this role.

    @DrakeN: A very astute observation.

  9. Jack Cade

    Just quietly, what a terribly inconvenient time for Donald Fart’s ‘heel spurs’ to recur! They kept him out of Vietnam, thus prolonging the war when his self-proclaimed but nascent military genius would have destroyed the VC in no time.
    Now they have confined him to a cellar in the Shite House, depriving the world of his genius. Tweets don’t suffice – even though he’s widely acknowledged as being a consummate Twat.

  10. Kronomex

    Jack CadeJune 2, 2020 at 8:26 am

    I’ll bet The Donald’s brown trousers got a real work out that night.

    He hides behind a eggshell thin wall of macho man of action toughness and arrogance to protect his incredibly fragile bloated ego and image of self-importance and/or a form of right man superiority (http://amasci.com/weird/rightman.html) and craven cowardice.

  11. wam

    a scot sawar hussein:
    I’m not black, but I see you.
    I’m not black, but I hear you.
    I’m not black, but I’ll stand with you.
    I’m not black, but I mourn for you.
    I’m not black, but I mourn with you
    If you are with the protests against police brutality and racism why don’t you care about the 432 deaths in custody since the royal commission?

  12. andy56

    What everyone fails to see is the reason Trump was elected. Hillary was seen as establishment and clearly establishment is on the nose in America. So the dickheads threw their dice in with Trump, cause you know he will change the system.
    So in a sense , he is the “recession we had to have”. What nobody could foresee was the sycophantic nature of the republican party. Even in the midst of the greatest number of lies, subterfuge, division, ridicule and open incompetence, they still support him. Americans were/are relying on their MYTHOLOGY to win the day.
    When will the truth open their eyes, we all say. They must think that Olympus is still a functioning metropolis, hahahahahaha

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