By Will Thomas
The author is a volunteer in the editorial department of tünews INTERNATIONAL. After staying in Tübingen and Berlin as part of a federal scholarship, he returned to the USA in April 2020. There he found a country in unrest. We have offered him the chance to share his experiences with us. In the German text, he uses certain English phrases where he found no suitable translation.
The United States of America are burning. On Monday, May 25th, 2020, police killed another Black man, George Floyd. This was the spark in the gas tank, but the fuel piled up over centuries. Black people have been subjected to violence in the USA for many years. In the past few months Ahmaud Aubrey, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, and more, were killed. In the past decade we lost Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Freddie Gray, Sandra Bland, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, Philando Castile. The list goes on.
From before the founding of the USA, “race” has always been one of the lenses through which US American society was built and continues to exist. The first Black people came to North America in 1619 as enslaved people. President Lincoln officially ended slavery after the American Civil War in 1865 with his Emancipation Proclamation, but the institution continued in the form of “chain gangs” and the forced labor of incarcerated peoples. In the USA “Jim Crow” laws cemented racial separation in everyday lives, from the bathrooms people could use to where people could sit on trains. The Supreme Court upheld this in 1896 in the Plessy v. Ferguson decision, establishing the “separate but equal” doctrine. This doctrine, despite the name, established at the highest federal level racial inequality throughout the country. The “separate but equal” doctrine continued until 1964, removed mostly due to the US American Civil Rights movement. Even with the doctrine removed, extreme inequality and racists policies continue in the USA.
The death of George Floyd was the spark that lit 400 years of fuel. The protests began in Minneapolis, where police killed George Floyd, the very next day. Again, protests against police violence and racism are common in the USA. In 2014 something similar happened in Ferguson, where Michael Brown was killed by violent police officers. He was 18 years old. Simultaneously, the Black Lives Matter movement spread. Even after decades of peaceful protests, the killings still continue.
In Minneapolis, the situation unfolded in a new direction. The police responded to peaceful protests with aggression. In the USA, police often look more akin to a military. The police in the twin cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul have a long history of violence and aggression. On the third day of protest in Minneapolis, on Thursday, May 28th, 2020, the local police precinct was burned. On that same day, protests broke out in cities across the USA.
I experienced the protests first-hand in Atlanta, Georgia. My city sits in the southeastern corner of the USA, in what is known as the “Deep South”. In my city, like cities across the country, police behaved not as peacekeepers, but as an occupying force. In the forthcoming part of this series, I will describe my own experiences and the police brutality I saw with my own eyes, including my own arrest. On Sunday, June 12th, 2020, Atlanta experienced our own death at the hands of the police. Officers shot Rayshard Brooks three times in the back as he tried to run away.
Foto: Michaela Rupprecht/Pixelio