“Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will. Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have found out the exact measure of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them, and these will continue till they are resisted with either words or blows, or with both. The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress. In the light of these ideas, Negroes will be hunted at the North, and held and flogged at the South so long as they submit to those devilish outrages, and make no resistance, either moral or physical.” – Fredrick Douglass
“A single spark can start a prarie fire”
“Political power comes out of the barrel of a gun:” Mao Tse Tung
In August, 1997, Abner Louima, an unarmed, defenseless Haitian security guard, with no criminal record whatsoever, was falsely arrested by Brooklyn police officers, who tortured and horiffically raped him, forced him into a bathroom stall where the police officers sodomized him, forcing a broom handle up Louima’s rectum, near- fatally rupturing his bladder and colon, among other near-fatal injuries necessitating three major surgeries and a three month hospitalization. The officer who committed this atrocity is currently free, and holding a government job. One would have expected sustained massive civil protest against this police barbarism. This sustained protest did not occur. In November, 1999, Amidou Diallo, an unarmed and defenseless black man was shot to death just outside his home with 21 gun bullets fired at him by police officers.
The police murderers received a slap on the wrist, despite significant public outrage. Subsequently a seemingly endless series of murders in following years ensued, during which police tortured and murdered the unarmed and defensless Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Botham Jean, Pamela Turner, Ahmaud Arbery, Derrick Scott, and innumerable others. The police guilty of these atrocities acted with impunity, and were never held accountable for their murderous conduct. Though there were sporadic protests, and outrage against these murders was expressed, as well as outrage against the impunity with which the police committed these murders, nothing significant happened, nothing improved, and, though the brutal police beating of unarmed and defenseless Rodney King in 1962 sparked riots in California, nothing changed since that time, quite the opposite. Recently, on the evening before his wedding, the unarmed and innocent Sean Bell was shot and killed by the police with 50 bullets. The innocent and defenseless Freddy Gray died after his spine was crushed and severed in a police van. On the night of March 13, 2020, three police officers battered open the door of the home of Breanna Taylor, an emergency medical technican. Police fraudulently claimed a drug investigation. Ms. Taylor was in her bed, unarmed and defenseless. The police shot at her at least eight times, killing her. The police officers who murdered Ms. Taylor have not been charged.
This time it is revealing that outrage against the torture-murder of George Floyd is shared by people of all races and nationalities: African-American, Asian, European, Latin American – a multi-racial identification with Floyd’s crucifixion, and a global outrage expressed against the gargantuan hypocrisy of the United States’ claim to defend human rights and press freedom, as on camera, working members of even CNN, covering peaceful protests in Minnesota, are arrested and their work destroyed. According to The New York Times, June 5, 2020, “A police officer near the White House slams a riot shield into a cameraman’s chest. The authorities in Minneapolis fire projectiles at a TV crew, prompting a reporter to cry, ‘stop shooting at us.’ A black journalist is encircled by riot police and arrested live on the air. Attacks against journalists covering demonstrations against racial injustice have prompted foreign governments to call on American authorities to respect press freedom and protect reporters, both local and foreign.”
Image on the right is by Lorie Shaull from St Paul, United States/Wikimedia Commons
Simultaneously with these state terrorist murders of innocent, unarmed black people, the economic inequality within the USA and globally has worsened exponentially with the spread of neoliberal capitalism. Homelessness and starvation is shamelessly evident in the most public areas of New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and every major city within the United States; throughout Western Europe, the majority of citizens’ lives have been devalued and destroyed by “austerity measures” which, according to Philip Alston, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty, has resulted in twenty percent of the British population living below the poverty line. Since 2010 large riots erupted, driven by dispossessed students and large sections of society in Spain, Italy, Greece, the UK, and last year the mass protest of the “Yellow Vests” began in France.
And simultaneously a massive increase of terrorism has been resorted to by destitute, desperate victims of the colossal global economic inequality which has now reached the obscene proportion at which the 0.01 percent, and eight men control more wealth than more than half the citizens of this planet: even a casual student of history could have recognized that these economic and social conditions are identical with the conditions preceding and sparking the French Revolution, the Russian Revolution, the Chinese Revolution, the Cuban Revolution. It does not require rocket science to expect that this grossly unjust world verges on a volcanic eruption, culminating in a bloody civil war, or a global burst of rage capable of shattering the neoliberal economic order which has led to such despair, frustration, humiliation and dehumanization that the majority of humanity has nothing to lose and everything to gain in a global revolt to restructure the present criminally unjust social and economic architecture which dominates huge areas of the world.
However, in classic Marxist theory, the highest stage of monopoly capitalism is fascism. And the question now is, who will ultimately prevail, the majority of dispossessed citizens of this planet, or the police state imposed to crush the majority of humanity and protect the property of that one percent who control more wealth than most citizens on this earth. Although we cited conditions in the “North,” the USA and Western Europe, the so-called “developed world,” people of color are starving and homeless throughout Southeast Asia, Africa, the Middle East and Latin America. This is a powderkeg which can suddenly explode.
This may explain how, with one horrific video of the bestial, perverted murder of George Floyd, the powderkeg may be finally exploding as the truth of the smashing of democracy and human rights in the United States is finally enraging people throughout the world.
The reality of totalitarianism in the United States, concealed, but covertly pervasive until now, has been finally exposed overtly with the graphic video revealing the sadistic murder of George Perry Floyd, an unarmed man who threatened no one. This is finally leading to the revulsion and revolt of massive peaceful demonstrators in Tokyo, Germany, Australia, Belgium, France, and elsewhere throughout the world. The militarized police in the United States operate as a death squad, and the ultimate questions will be whether this finally massive eruption of rage at the gruesome injustice which defines capitalist society can be sustained against the holocaust of police and military force unleashed against civilian resistance, so sudden, so spontaneous, so global.
On June 13, The New York Times headline read: “It’s ‘Nonlethal,’ But It Maims And Also Kills.” “As protesters filled the streets of downtown San Jose, California, recently, the police fired munitions known as rubber bullets into the crowd….. Breanna Contrera’s head jerked back from the impact as a black projectile ‘roughly the size of an extra-jumbo marshmallow’ struck her temple, near her eye. ‘I instantly felt my head just starting to throb, blood poured down my face,’ Ms. Contreras, a 21 year old student said. A bystander who used her face mask to help stop the bleeding was also struck. ‘There were so many rubber bullets being fired, I wanted to think how to protect my eyes,’ said Peter di Donato, 75, a veteran of anti-Vietnam War protests, who was hit in the leg. Derrick Sanderlin, 29, a community organizer, approached a line of police officers to ask them to stop. But he got hit too – in the groin – and had to have emergency surgery.
He said his doctors have told him he may not be able to have children as a result of the injury. Eleven people were taken to the hospital over a four day period after being struck with police-fired beanbag rounds – small fabric pillows filled with lead and fired from shotguns – including Justin Howell, 20 a college student who sustained a skull fracture and brain damage. Brad Levi Ayala 16, a student who stopped to watch a peaceful protest as he was headed home from his job at a sandwich shop, was shot in the forehead with a beanbag round, an incident that was captured on video and spread widely online. He was rushed to the hospital where he underwent seven hours of surgery…Doctors told the family the lead filled bag had dented the skull into the brain, damaging the pre-frontal cortex, according to Edwin Sanchez, his brother…. Adam Keup said an officer, without warning, shot him in the eye with a paintball gun loaded with a ball of pepper spray at a protest in Omaha in late May. Mr. Keup, 23, said doctors told him he would have permanent eye damage and might never be able to see again…In recent years, police have stocked up on more than just paintball guns: They have added more firepower and military gear, especially in larger cities, where they use federal grant money to buy armored cars and other tactical gear.”
On June 7, the Sunday Review of The New York Times published a major article written by Jamelle Bouie: “Rioting police officers have driven vehicles into crowds, reproducing the assault that killed Heather Heyer in Charlottsville, Va., in 2017. They have surrounded a car, smashed the windows, tazed the occupants and dragged them out onto the ground. Clad in paramilitary gear, they have attacked elderly bystanders, pepper-sprayed cooperative protesters and shot ‘nonlethal’ rounds directly at reporters, causing serious injuries. In Austin, Texas a 20 year old man is in critical condition after being shot in the head with a ‘less-lethal’ round. Across the country, rioting police officers are using tear gas in quantities that threaten the health and safety of demonstrators, especially in the midst of a respiratory disease pandemic. None of this quells disorder. Everything from the militaristic posture to the attacks themselves does more to inflame and agitate protesters than it does to calm the situation and bring order to the streets. In effect, rioting police officers have done as much to stoke unrest and destabilize the situation as those responsible for damaged buildings and burning cars. But where rioting protesters can be held to account for destruction and violence, rioting officers have the imprimatur of the state. What we’ve seen from rioting police officers, in other words is an assertion of power and impunity. In the face of mass anger over police brutality, they’ve effectively said ‘So What?’”
Although even some among the peaceful protesters deplored the “looting and burning” that sometimes followed the massive peaceful protests, it is probable that without that emphatic expression of rage which culminated in the firebombing of the empty police station in Minneapolis which employed the police murderer of George Floyd, no real impact would be made on the established order and vested interests it represents, and the point may have been reached where people recognize that peaceful protest cannot change the violence of PoliceState USA, and that an actual state of war exists, or is inescapably imminent. It is also possible that some of the “looting and burning” may have been incited by “agents provocateurs,” intent on discrediting the protesters, and alarming the “establishment.” Finally, it may have been precisely those chaotic expressions of rage driven to violence that alerted the “established order” that its interests might be threatened, and possibly, ultimately, even their lives. The more intelligent of the one percent may have recognized the actual threat of revolution.
The savage murder of George Floyd exposes the United States’ brazen violation of the United Nations Charter, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, every Resolution defending human dignity that has been adopted by the United Nations throughout its 75 years of existence, the United States Constitution and The Bill of Rights. On Sunday, June 7, The New York Times, page 21 headlined: “In Turmoil at Home, U.S. Loses Moral Authority Overseas”: “Chinese officials are using the crises in the United States as ammunition in their rhetorical battles against American diplomats. After Morgan Ortagus, the State Department spokeswoman, expressed concern over Hong Kong, writing on Twitter that “freedom loving people must stand with the rule of law and hold to account the Chinese Communist Party,” a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman in Beijing taunted her with Mr. Floyd’s final words: ‘I can’t breathe’”
As the heinous murder of George Floyd violates everything the United Nations theoretically represents and defends, and the United Nations High Commissioner of Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet has condemned the monstrous cruelty of Floyd’s death, it will be interesting and instructive to see how the United Nations responds to Floyd’s family and legal team’s urgent request for its intervention.
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Carla Stea is a Research Associate of the Centre for Research on Globalization (CRG) and Global Research’s Correspondent at UN headquarters, New York.