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How do we think about the George Floyd murder? Show more Show less
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On May 25 2020, George Floyd was suffocated to death by the police. Floyd had been arrested on suspicion of using a counterfeit $20 bill. In chilling footage that would go viral within 24 hours, officer Derek Chauvin knelt on his neck for more than 8 minutes ignoring Floyd's repeated pleas for him to move. The asphyxiation led to his cardiac arrest. Floyd's death has so far inspired protests across more than 75 US cities, calling for an end to police brutality and institutional racism. The responses to these riots have included state-wide curfews, the threat of military intervention, attacks on the media and civilian arrests. The situation has given rise to a complex debate with commentators arguing over what precisely it has exposed about contemporary America. So, who are these groups, what do they stand for, and why?

George Floyd's murder is simply a murder: It is not representative of wider issues Show more Show less

This approach believes that an isolated murder cannot be used to make broader points about America, its society, and politics.
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The George Floyd response has been completely unjustified

No amount of injustice warrants the destruction of America’s streets. The reaction is unproductive, disproportionate, and lawless, giving free rein to opportunistic criminals and anarchists- while tarnishing George Floyd's legacy. What we need is a mediated approach.

The Argument

Recent rhetoric posed by left-wing media and commentators intends to polarize and induce radical sentiment in George Floyd's name. While the distressing footage has understandably caused upset since its original leak, the following global response, including consistently violent riots in 140 US cities- is completely disproportionate. Distrust in the American police force has swollen, further provoking tensions between authorities and marginalized communities, resulting in militarization from both sides.[1] This will not produce a positive outcome for the United States’ African American communities and is at risk of being taken out of context on an international scale. While other nations are finding parallels to George Floyd, they must address these issues not through the lens of America, but by their own history of racial tensions. The UK’s Metropolitan Police may have had their own accusations of racism, for example, but they are not armed to the degree of those in America’s system.[2] Of course, the reaction has been cumulative rather than isolated, with 2020 alone also seeing the high profile tragedy of Breonna Taylor, whose unprovoked killing has understandably aroused fear.[3] But this doesn’t justify unprovoked violence in turn, including mass damage to local businesses and property.[4] Police have also been unfairly targeted- many have stood by protesters or addressed civil disobedience as a matter of safety.[5] Protests of this sort can- and have- been a righteous cause. The issue is the state of lawlessness that has malformed from the situation. Like any movement lacking a united vision, it has been hijacked by criminals, opportunists, and bandwagonism. It has missed the point. Many now are not hearing ‘Black Lives Matter’ but platitudes and meaningless sloganeering. They are not seeing George Floyd, but an easily-exploited brand along with the same level of profundity as ‘ I ❤ NY’.

Counter arguments

The inflamed response to George Floyd’s death represents the succession of anguish and dissent in the Black American psyche from decades of torment from US police. It has now spread its influence globally, on a scale never achieved before, even by Black Lives Matter's standard. The reason is simple: the world is expected to believe in America as a superpower, Land of the Free, Land of Prosperity, and the epitome of ‘greatness.’ What appeared in the George Floyd footage was about as much an affront to that image as any of Donald Trump’s ludicrous antics in the past four years. Its potency is the sum of every civil movement sparked from the killing of Black innocents in recent US memory. Of course, the protests have taken a radical turn in a small number of cases.[6] This says more about the scale of the movement than its intent. It is also a reflection of how the law has failed so many as to have lost its meaning. Instead, it is the violent radicalization of the police that deserves our attention- the main concern of the protests.[7] Damage to property and retaliative aggression, in this case, should be seen as collateral damage. The suffragette movement is rarely scrutinized even though its methods were similarly controversial because history has given us perspective on the importance of the women’s vote and what the movement was fighting.[8] The cause’s momentum is too great to drop, and should not do so until it has achieved complete reform in the American justice system and its police force. It is the change- not the damage- that will be remembered by future generations.

Proponents

Premises

Rejecting the premises

References

  1. https://www.sbs.com.au/news/how-us-police-responded-differently-to-protesters-demanding-justice-for-george-floyd-and-anti-lockdown-rallies
  2. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/stories-53224394
  3. https://interactive.aljazeera.com/aje/2020/know-their-names/index.html
  4. https://www.foxnews.com/politics/george-floyd-protests-expensive-civil-disturbance-us-history
  5. https://edition.cnn.com/2020/06/01/us/officers-protesters-images-george-floyd-trnd/index.html
  6. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/sep/05/nearly-all-black-lives-matter-protests-are-peaceful-despite-trump-narrative-report-finds
  7. https://mappingpoliceviolence.org/
  8. https://www.bl.uk/votes-for-women/articles/suffragettes-violence-and-militancy
This page was last edited on Monday, 9 Nov 2020 at 23:03 UTC

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