” Believers in boogaloo ideology — a focus on visible gun ownership, with some advocating for a violent civil war against the federal government — have shown up to protests in Minneapolis, Las Vegas, and other cities, sometimes wearing Hawaiian shirts (based on a movement in-joke) and carrying large guns.”
“members of the boogaloo movement are unlikely to be the majority of those arrested at either the protests or the violence. In Minneapolis, Seattle, Cleveland, Dallas, Atlanta, and elsewhere, the majority of those arrested during the protests and violence haven’t been outside agitators traveling the country to start fights and cause violence. Rather, they’ve been people largely from the same places where they are arrested.”
“For Europeans watching events unfold across the Atlantic — as thousands took to the streets across the U.S. — it was the massive, and seemingly effective, response that followed George Floyd’s death as much as the brutality of his killing that spurred them to action. At a time when U.S. President Donald Trump has tarnished the national brand in the eyes of many in Europe, activists took cues and borrowed slogans from a civil rights movement that has inspired people on both sides of the Atlantic for decades.
In Belgium, some 10,000 people gathered in front of Brussels’ Palais de Justice for a protest organized by the Belgian Network for Black Lives. In a sea of hand-drawn “Black Lives Matter” and “No justice, no peace” placards, people held up signs calling out the country’s history of racism — “Belgium, too” and “We need to talk about Leopold II and Belgian colonies” — and the names of recent victims of police violence.
A planned protest last week organized by families of victims of police brutality in France — including Adama Traoré, a 24-year-old black man who died in police custody in 2016 — drew record numbers of people in Paris. In cities across Germany, Spain, the U.K. and the Netherlands, protesters also flouted lockdown rules to flood public squares to demand justice for the people of color who died in police custody in their own countries. They filled streets in Dublin, Copenhagen and Milan. In Bristol, in the U.K., protesters tore down the statue of a 17th-century slave trader, dragged it through the streets and threw it in the harbor.”
“Europe’s history with race relations is so different from that of the U.S. There was no large-scale system of slavery in modern Europe; it largely “exported” its racism to its colonies, which it plundered for wealth and cheap labor. Most migration from Africa to Europe is relatively recent, starting in the 1960s. In most European countries, there are people who remember when large numbers of migrants first arrived.
Colonialism is still a touchy subject in a number of countries, particularly in France and Belgium, which have largely failed to grapple with their bloody legacies. There is a “selective amnesia” in Europe about its imperial legacy and a “toxic nostalgia that to this day taints their misunderstanding of that history,” the British journalist Gary Younge wrote in a piece for the New York Review of Books.”
“Although most of Europe, unlike the U.S., has never put in place a system of legal discrimination explicitly targeting people of color, like the Jim Crow laws, the daily racism experienced by Europeans is no less shocking. In some cases, it’s more so.
“Levels of incarceration, unemployment, deprivation and poverty are all higher for black Europeans,” according to Younge. “Perhaps only because the Continent is not blighted by the gun culture of the U.S., racism here is less lethal.”
Being a black or brown person in Europe means being confronted from a young age with teachings that paint colonialism as a worthy enterprise. It means you’re more likely to live in poorer, heavily policed neighborhoods. It means your job applications will often go unanswered and you will have a hard time renting property or buying a house.
You’ll have seen people black up their faces and dress up as Zwarte Piet every year in early December. You’ll have watched far-right parties rise in the polls on openly racist platforms and loose language comparing migrants to vermin. You’ll have seen footage of football fans throwing banana skins at black players. And you’ll have seen politicians, most of whom do not look like you, stay silent.”
“Watching things like that should help me sympathize with the people rioting last night.
So should my friend Fabian’s experience. When Fabian was 20, he bought his first car, a luxury edition Infiniti J30 Sedan. He’d saved up for it working as an airplane technician, transporting U.S. soldiers to war zones around the world.
Then, while pumping gas back in NYC, police officers approached him, demanding his license and registration.
He produced the documents and showed them that the car was registered in his name. But Fabian is black, and the police would not believe that the car belonged to him. They arrested him and charged him with grand theft auto.
He sat in jail for two days.
Finally, a judge dismissed the case—using the same documentation Fabian had showed the police. They released him—without any apology.
The trauma still haunts him. Fabian says it evokes a sense of helplessness—a fear that “anytime there’s an encounter with law enforcement, getting arrested or even death could be the outcome.”
Yet, as I watch protesters (even two lawyers were arrested) throwing Molotov cocktails at police officers, and I see opportunistic young people looting stores, and my privileged left-wing white friends say things like, “the looting of our society by unrestrained capitalism is worse!” I get even more furious.
This country, and capitalism, has done more good things for disadvantaged people of all races than any society, ever.
Fabian, despite his terrible experience, says that living as a black man in America is a gift. He came here as a teen from Jamaica. America, he says, gave him opportunity he would never have had elsewhere.
“Keep in mind that the current protests and related riots were sparked by the abusive and murderous actions of police officers who are (allegedly) trained to protect the communities in which they live and the public that they serve. It’s difficult to see how the situation is going to be improved by the addition of troops more often trained to kill people and break things—especially when they’re handed weapons and pointed toward antagonists.
“U.S. soldiers are trained for combat against a foreign enemy, not for riot control against Americans,” the Wall Street Journal editorial page warns. “The risk of mistakes would be high, and Mr. Trump would be blamed for any bloodshed from civilian clashes with troops.”
The Journal editors were recoiling not from Tom Cotton’s eagerness to escalate hostilities against American civilians, but from the president’s similar scheme. Trump, too, has proposed sending in the military to battle rioters, even over local objections.”
“it’s exactly that history of domination and imposed order, which treats members of the public as an enemy, overcriminalizes a wide variety of conduct, and disproportionately targets minority communities, that led us to this point. Deploying the military to clear the streets might disperse protesters and looters alike in the short term, but it will exacerbate the problem of authoritarian law enforcement. And that guarantees escalating tensions that, if they’re not addressed, will eventually explode into new conflict.”
“POLITICO spoke to 10 National Guardsmen who have taken part in the protest response across the country since the killing of George Floyd while in police custody. Many Guardsmen said they felt uncomfortable with the way they were used to handle the unrest because demonstrators lumped them in with the police. They felt that while they swore an oath to uphold the Constitution, their presence at times intimidated Americans from expressing their opinions and even escalated the tension.
And in the case of Guardsmen involved in the Lafayette incident, some felt used.
“As a military officer, what I saw was more or less really f—ed up,” said one D.C. Guardsman who was deployed to Lafayette Square last Monday and who, like some others, spoke on condition of anonymity to speak freely. The official line from the White House that the protesters had turned violent, he said, is false.”
““I’m here to support and defend the Constitution of the United States and what I just saw goes against my oath and to see everyone try to cover up what really happened,” the Guardsman continued. “What I saw was just absolutely wrong.””
“One of the Guardsmen at the scene said the White House isn’t being truthful.
“I’ve been tear gassed before. I was there the night before when we got tear gassed, there was tear gas there” on Monday evening, he said. He added that he and some of his soldiers felt the effects of the tear gas from their colleagues because they didn’t have masks on.”
“The U.S. Park Police has acknowledged firing pepper balls into the crowd, which is also a chemical irritant.”
“The officer said he even told Gen. Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, just before the Park Police moved in that the protests had been peaceful that day, a sentiment that was shared by three other Guardsmen who were there.”
” As of Monday, 42,700 National Guardsmen were deployed across 34 states and D.C. to deal with protests. At the height of the response last week, 1,200 D.C. National Guardsmen and another 3,900 from 11 states were patrolling the nation’s capital. Defense Secretary Mark Esper gave the order for the out-of-state Guardsmen to begin leaving on Friday; all are expected to return home by Wednesday.”
“Torrie Osterholm, the D.C. National Guard’s director of psychological health, said in an interview that many Guardsmen have reached out to her in the past week to express the pain and confusion they struggled with during and after the mission, both for what they witnessed and how the protesters reacted.
One Guardsman told her, “‘I never thought I’d get a bottle thrown at me and be told I should die and I should kill myself,’” Osterholm said. “There’s not enough Kevlar to protect you from those kinds of statements spoken in your own language.”
Walker, the D.C. Guard commander, acknowledged the challenges Guardsmen faced in a Sunday briefing with reporters.
“I have some Guardsmen whose family members came out and criticized them. ‘What are you doing out here, aren’t you black?’” Walker said. “Of course, we’re all hurting. The nation is hurting.””
“In a 2017 analysis of data from 20 states, researchers at Stanford University found that “white drivers are searched in 2.0% of stops, compared to 3.5% of stops for black motorists and 3.8% for Hispanic motorists.” After the researchers controlled for stop location, date and time, and driver age and gender, they calculated that “black and Hispanic drivers have approximately twice the odds of being searched relative to white drivers.” They were also twice as likely to be arrested. The study found that “black and Hispanic drivers are searched on the basis of less evidence than white drivers, suggestive of bias in search decisions.”
After surveying drivers in the Kansas City area in 2003 and 2004, Charles Epp and two other researchers at the University of Kansas classified police encounters based on the legal justification (or lack thereof) and the amount of discretion involved. They found that black drivers were no more likely than white drivers to report clear-cut “traffic safety stops” (e.g., for running a red light or stop sign, driving at night with headlights off, or exceeding the speed limit by seven or more miles an hour) but were nearly three times as likely to report seemingly pretextual “investigatory stops” (e.g., for an unilluminated license plate, driving too slowly, or no reason mentioned by the officer).
During investigatory stops, Epp and his colleagues reported, black drivers were five times as likely as white drivers to be searched. They were also more likely to be handcuffed and threatened with arrest, and more likely to describe the officer’s demeanor as rude, hostile, or insulting. Blacks perceived investigatory stops as less legitimate than traffic safety stops, while whites made no such distinction. The more stops black drivers had experienced, the less they trusted the police, an effect that was not apparent among white drivers.”
“injunctions. When a court enjoins a particular defendant, they don’t just order that defendant to cease a particular behavior, they also can enforce that order with criminal sanctions or by imposing escalating fines until the defendant ceases their illegal conduct. A party subject to an injunction, in other words, can be squeezed so hard by court sanctions that they have no choice but to change their behavior.
Consider the case of Eric Garner, who was killed by a New York police officer’s chokehold in 2014. Although the NYPD had a formal policy barring chokeholds, it was frequently unenforced. The city’s Civilian Complaint Review Board received 219 chokehold complaints against NYPD officers in just one year.
If one of the victims of those chokeholds had obtained an injunction against the NYPD, then a court could have imposed strict sanctions on the city until police chokeholds ceased. And Eric Garner might be alive today.”
“No matter how you look at it, the American criminal justice system is riddled with biases. As the Washington Post’s Radley Balko cataloged, we know that black people are nearly twice as likely to be pulled over and more likely to be searched once they’re stopped even though they’re less likely to have contraband; and that unarmed black people are more than three times as likely to be shot by police as unarmed whites.”
“Let’s think about the Floyd case. Before we get to the killing, let’s think about the arrest. The store owner called the police and said that someone had tried to pass a fake $20 bill. The police respond, and what they do is virtually impossible to imagine happening to a white person. What they do is to approach Mr. Floyd’s car like he’s a violent thug. They order Mr. Floyd and the passengers to exit the car. One officer has his hand on his gun. They put Mr. Floyd in handcuffs. When he falls to the ground, they leave him on the ground in handcuffs, and then, as the whole world knows, they hold him down by his back and knee and legs for 10 minutes until he dies. I just can’t imagine that happening to a white person over a $20 bill.”
“Part of the evidence that the system was designed this way, and one of the reasons it recurs over and over again, is because a lot of the conduct that people of color complain about is totally legal. So I don’t think the case against the officers in the Floyd case is a slam-dunk by any means. The defense will be that their use of force was reasonable. And they have a case to make. They don’t have a great case, given that Mr. Floyd was handcuffed, but what they will say is that he was resisting arrest and they used reasonable force to subdue him. And obviously there comes a point where the reasonableness of that force is extinguished by the fact that his body is lying limp and motionless on the ground. But up until then, I think they have an argument that what they were doing was legal.
Outside of that case, in theory, the power that police have is unreal. I have a police officer buddy who comes and visits my criminal law class, and to demonstrate how much power he has, he invites my students to go on a ride-along in his car, to see what it’s like to patrol the streets of DC. He plays a game with them called Pick That Car. He tells the student, “Pick any car that you want, and I’ll stop it.” So the student will say, “How about that white Camry over there.”
He’s a good cop. He waits until he has a legal reason. But he says that he could follow any car, and after five minutes or three blocks, the driver will commit some traffic infraction, and then under the law he has the power to stop the car, to order the driver and the passengers to get out of the car. If he has reasonable suspicion that they might be armed or dangerous, he could touch their bodies, he can frisk them, he can ask to search their car. And it’s totally legal. That’s an example of the extraordinary power that police have.”
“A hundred years from now, when people want to know what it was like to be alive in 2020, the Ferguson report is one of the things they’ll look at. It’s this amazing synthesis of data and stories. The data includes the fact that every single time the police used a dog in Ferguson, they used it against a black person.”
“So there’s one story in there in which a woman calls the police because her boyfriend’s beating her up. By the time the police get there, he’s gone. The police look around the apartment and they say, “Does he live here?” And she says, “Yes, he does.” The police say, “You’re under arrest for occupancy permit violation, because his name isn’t on the lease.” When that happened to another woman in Ferguson, she said she would never call the police again, she didn’t care if she was being killed. Again, this is how the police do black people and brown people. They don’t treat white people like this, certainly not as systematically as they do black and brown people.”
“I think a lot of people go into the work because they really want to help communities, and they really want to make a difference, and this belief is based on my experience as a prosecutor working with police officers of all backgrounds and of all races. So I don’t think that police officers are especially racist. But I do think we give them tools and authority in a context that leads them to deploy it unjustly against people of color.”