Voices on Police Brutality in the Aftermath of the Murder of George Floyd
compiled by Rachel MacNair
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by Laura Hazard Owen, June 1, 2020.
As Black Lives Matter protests spread across the country one week after a white police officer allegedly murdered a black man, George Floyd, it’s becoming clear that attacks by police on journalists are becoming a widespread pattern, not one-off incidents. While violence against press-credentialed reporters covering the protests may still be dwarfed by violence against the American citizens who are protesting, incidents are piling up — and are getting more attention in part because the journalists being attacked include those from large mainstream news organizations.
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More training or diversity among police officers won’t end police brutality, nor will firing and charging individual officers. Look at the Minneapolis Police Department, which is held up as a model of progressive police reform. . . .
George Floyd was still murdered.
. . . The solution to ending police violence and cultivating a safer country lies in reducing the power of the police and their contact with the public. We can do that by reinvesting the $100 billion spent on policing nationwide in alternative emergency response programs . . .
Municipalities can begin by changing policies or statutes so police officers never respond to certain kinds of emergencies, including ones that involve substance abuse, domestic violence, homelessness or mental health. Instead, health care workers or emergency response teams would handle these incidents.
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When a video goes viral showing violence against a black person, the shock waves are felt throughout our community. Our social feeds show a mixture of outrage, despair and an overall sense of fatigue.
When another breaking news story inevitably takes center stage and pushes the violence into the background, we still feel that pain. Black people don’t have the luxury of moving on when the media does.
This deep-seated pain, stemming from inherited racial trauma and modern examples of injustice, informs our health, both mentally and physically. Allostasis is the measure of wear and tear on the body caused by chronic stress, and studies have shown that “weathering” the effects of racism puts black people at a higher risk of mortality.
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PBS News Hour, June 1, 2020:
Judy Woodruff: And Christopher Swanson is the sheriff of Genesee County, Michigan. He received national attention for his approach to demonstrators in Flint this weekend.
Here’s how some of that went.
Christopher Swanson: We want to be with you all for real. So I took the helmet off. They laid the batons down. I want to make this a parade, not a protest. So, you tell us what you need to do.
Protesters: Walk with us! Walk with us! Walk with us!
Christopher Swanson: Let’s walk. Let’s walk. (CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
Judy Woodruff: So, Sheriff Swanson, watching that video, why did you decide to do that? You were expressing solidarity with these protesters.
Christopher Swanson: . . . I can tell you that that night on May 30 made history on how to handle protests in a way that was honorable. Our city is already under enough oppression. We are already dealing with economic issues, a water crisis, and a pandemic.
And it was just the right thing to do. As a veteran police officer who knows the community, I saw acts of kindness with fist bump, a small hug. And I went to my right, and I saw that. And I said, I’m taking the helmet off. We’re putting our batons down and I’m walking in the crowd.
And when I did that, that act of vulnerability, probably wasn’t the best tactical move, by any means. It sent a message. And that message was that I need to say, we don’t agree, that’s not who we are, what happened to Mr. Floyd.
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PBS NewsHour, June 1, 2020:
Tay Anderson: In Denver, we have explicitly asked what we call allies that are showing up to please not escalate on our behalf.
But those asks have been ignored. And, right now, we are seeing our city being destroyed. And it is not in the name of black organizers or Black Lives Matter as a movement. People are taking it on their own volition. And it’s heartbreaking to see that those who come out to support the cause are using the cause for their own agenda. . . .
I think our generation is waking up. But I also think that there are people in this generation that are using this moment and this movement for a trend on Twitter, for TikTok video, or to go viral on social media, which is disgusting.
We shouldn’t have white kids coming from the suburbs, throwing stuff at police officers on our behalf to be cool for a nice trend. That is not what we have asked for. And it’s hurting us more than it is going to help us.
And so, hopefully, what I’m planning — I plan to see in the future is that we are able to start coming together and actually start understanding that Black Lives Matter is not about asking for special privilege. It’s just saying, black people just want to be seen as human.
For more of our posts on police brutality, see: