Dramatic demonstrations in the United States have created a global commitment. But what is the core of the protests?
- What is the background to the protests in the United States?
- What is the Black Lives Matter movement?
- What does “defund the police” mean?
- How can this commitment lead to lasting change?
On August 9, 2014, Michael Brown was shot by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri. The incident provoked violent reactions in the United States, a country located in North America according to physicscat, and it did not take long before it led to riots and demonstrations in the streets of American cities. Almost six years later, the Americans are again facing similar demonstrations. But this time it seems like something is different.
2: The background for the demonstrations
The demonstrations today are a reaction to the murder of George Floyd. On May 25 this year, Floyd was arrested, but died during the arrest because police officer Derek Chauvin had his knee against Floyd’s neck for almost nine minutes. Floyd’s repeated comments that he was not allowed to breathe were ignored.
The death has brought to life a debate that has long been simmering in American society. The debate is about the relationship between the police and African Americans, and the asymmetrical treatment of the melanin-rich part of the population.
This incident is still just the tip of the iceberg, the drop that finally made the cup overflow. It is not just police violence that the protesters are reacting to, but a failure in the entire American system. This means a lack of opportunities for young people, a lack of social assistance and a lack of training and education among the police forces.
The protests have been criticized for being violent. Pictures and films show burning cars, statues being torn down by plinths and attacks on police officers. The use of violence is the result of an extreme frustration that has accumulated over several decades. It is still too early to say anything concrete about the results of the demonstrations. Nevertheless, police departments in some American cities, such as New York and Minneapolis, where Floyd’s murder took place, have promised hefty reforms to overcome their problems.
3: What do the statistics tell us?
No country in the world has as high a proportion of the population in prison as the United States. In Norway, 60 people per 100,000 inhabitants are in prison. The number is over ten times higher in the United States. There are 655 people in prison per 100,000 inhabitants.
The total population of the United States is about 5 percent of the world’s population, but accounts for 25 percent of the world’s prison population. However, these figures do not tell the whole story. For example, it is estimated that more than half of the inmates have not yet been convicted, but are waiting for the trial to be completed.
In addition to large numbers of Americans being imprisoned, the U.S. police have been repeatedly criticized for excessive use of force in connection with arrests. This is especially true for arrests of melanin – rich people.
In the United States, African-Americans make up about 13 percent of the population, but account for nearly a third of the prison population. In addition, an African-American is three times more likely to be killed by police than a white man.
The statistics are often the result of social conditions. For example, there are more police in neighborhoods with low average incomes and a high proportion of minorities. More police means fewer crimes go unnoticed. At the same time, it means that crimes committed in areas with less police will more often go under police radar.
This does not mean that only African-Americans are affected by police violence or are shot and killed by the police. Findings from the National Violent Death Reporting System (NVDRS) indicate that a total of more white Americans are killed by the police. But in the United States, there are far more white Americans than African-Americans ( about 75 percent versus 13 percent ), and therefore these numbers are not surprising.
The findings also show that white Americans are more likely than melanin-rich people to be killed by so-called “suicide-by-cop”, where a person wants to be killed and therefore acts threateningly for the police to shoot. Although police violence can affect the American population regardless of race, statistics still show that the probability of being killed by police is higher for non-white Americans.
4: The Black Lives Matter movement
The police’s various treatment of and violent behavior towards the melanin – rich part of the population has had fatal results in large numbers. Floyd is one of the latest in a long line of cases of excessive use of police force.
Earlier this spring, for example, 26-year-old Breonna Taylor was shot eight times after police broke into her apartment. Police were looking for drugs, and suspected that Taylor’s apartment was part of a larger drug ring. Taylor was innocent.
Last fall, 23-year-old Elijah McClain died after being arrested and injected with ketamine, an anesthetic. As I said, this is just the tip of the iceberg.