The United States has been rocked for several days by numerous revolts caused by the death of George Floyd, an African American killed Monday during an arrest by the police of Minneapolis (Minnesota).
Charlotte Recoquillon, researcher associated with the French Institute of Geopolitics, specialist in police violence in the United States and journalist, analyzes the causes and the scale of these movements across the Atlantic.
How do you explain such a massive reaction to the death of George Floyd?
CHARLOTTE RECOQUILLON. It is difficult to explain why at one point this murder is perceived as more unbearable than the others. But it comes after the deaths of Atatiana Jefferson in October, of Breonna Taylor in May or Ahmaud Arbery in February. This image of George Floyd suffocated also recalls that of Eric Garner in 2014 which had also been filmed and which had provoked revolts and a strong mobilization. She may be the last straw. This highlights the fact that the rights of African-Americans are not evolving and that they are stuck in a second-class socio-economic and political situation.
This drama also takes place in a wider sequence. For example, structural inequalities in the United States further expose African-Americans to the coronavirus. They therefore die at an alarming level of disproportion. Without forgetting a pre-electoral climate with demands on the Democratic party. Joe Biden is under pressure to choose an African-American running mate and make real promises on the issue of racial equality.
Do you think there is a problem of racism in the American police?
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Yes, it is an endemic problem in the police, just like in American society. The institution is not hermetic to what is happening in society. There are problematic police officers, such as Derek Chauvin, who himself had 18 complaints of contentious behavior, most of which were closed without disciplinary action. But the problem is not limited to a few individuals: there are structural problems linked to the recruitment and training of police officers. Many in working-class neighborhoods behave as if they were on a battlefield in the face of an internal enemy.
How do you analyze the reaction of Donald Trump who condemns both the death of George Floyd but justifies the use of weapons in the face of the rioters?
During the events in Charlottesville between anti-racist activists and white supremacists in 2017, he had already denounced violence on both sides. He supports armed people who defend a law supposedly driven by fear when he defends those who demand equality. Donald Trump also puts the same damage to property or the destruction of stores and those caused to lives.
Can these movements give hope for changes in American society?
For that, it will require a change of administration, and part of the events is also played out in the perspective of the presidential election in November.
But the death of George Floyd manages to arouse indignation, therefore emotion. It is already progress. Because we do not observe a resurgence of racist crimes but rather that of the attention paid to them because they are more visible. It is the result of awareness work carried out for many years by the Black Lives Matter movement . And these are also revolts that are not only led by the black community itself, but we see the support of a multiracial coalition. But we must not forget that the opposite camp is very active in protecting its privileges. They have a lot to lose in overhauling structures.