US at peak of pandemic and Black American protests | Daily News


 

US at peak of pandemic and Black American protests

 A mural tribute to George Floyd
A mural tribute to George Floyd

The United States stands out in world affairs this week having the highest number of Covid-19 infected and deceased, and being the centre of widespread protests against the police killing of a Black American and the continuing issue of the oppression of Black people.

On Covid-19, with the globally infected at 6,511,696 and 386, 073 deaths, the US has 1,851,520 infected and 107,175 deaths. The UK now ranks second in deaths exceeding 50,000 as reported by Reuters with 281, 270 infected, and Brazil ranks third with 584,016 infected and 5,208 deaths. Russia is the fourth in infections with 431,715 and 5,208 deaths.

Most of Europe is now relaxing the lockdown rules and opening up as the infections and deaths keep falling. Land borders among neighbouring countries are being opened, with an increasing opportunity of inter-state tourism, which will help the economies of these countries. Former world leaders have signed a joint plea for a US$ 2.5 trillion package of support from the international community for developing countries threatened with health, economic and malnutrition disasters due to coronavirus. 

The 225 signatories, ex-presidents, prime ministers and leaders of international institutions call for an emergency summit of the G20, to agree on a global health and economic recovery plan which would “send out a message of hope for the future”. They warn that without urgent and concerted action, the world faces a deep recession threatening hundreds of millions of the poorest and most disadvantaged with unemployment, destitution and starvation, along with a second wave of Covid-19 outbreaks in the developing world sweeping back to re-infect richer nations which have the disease under control.

‘Black Lives Matter’

More than eight days after the brutal killing of the Black American George Floyd by a white American policeman in Minneapolis, public protests continue in many parts of the United States, while the violence that took place in many of these protest demonstrations is now declining.

In the days after the killing of George Floyd the protests spread through the US, in the larger cities from Minneapolis and St. Paul’s to New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Las Vegas and many others, as both Black and White Americans joined the call for justice and the need to rethink and revise police and judicial processes that are largely lined against the Black American and minority communities.  

George Floyd died when a policeman, from a group of four, arrested him while being in a car with others, following a complaint he had used a forged US $20 note in a nearby shop. He was handcuffed and forced down to the ground, and kept down with a policeman kneeling on him with one knee on his neck, while he kept saying “I can’t breathe”, and pleading not to be killed. The other three policemen in the team watched this, through more than eight minutes, and then called an ambulance that took him to a hospital where he died.

The policeman who was kneeling on Floyd’s neck, Derek Chauvin, has now been charged with second-degree murder and manslaughter. The three other policemen, previously uncharged, now face counts of aiding and abetting murder. The delay in actions on these policemen involved in the killing is what prompted the mass protests.

The spread of protests and flames in the US also led to vandalism, looting and attacks on buildings and vehicles. In several cities, police personnel, including Police Chiefs, knelt down with the protesters calling for justice and remembering George Floyd, showing a new understanding taking place between sections of the police and the public, on the wider issue of equality in justice for the Black American and minority communities in the country.

The protests also saw journalists attacked by the police in several cities in the US as they were covering situations of social anger and violence.

The protests have also brought threats  from President Donald Trump, who initially said he had sympathy for George Floyd, and later spoke much about the need to put down the violence, and threatened to order the use of US Troops, needing a special presidential directive, to curb what he calls terrorist and fascist moves.

In a much criticized move, the US President who had earlier moved to an underground bunker in the White House as protests spread outside the official residence, had peaceful protesters outside removed with tear gas and batons and moved across the White House Rose Garden to a church nearby, and took a publicity image of him holding a Bible in his hand and warning of the use of the armed forces against protesters and violence. He did not enter the 200 year old church, offer any prayers there, and has not made any Presidential statement with a call for peace, which has been the tradition of US Presidents in times of crisis. 

President Trump has been strongly criticized by the Bishop of this Evangelical Church, as well as other church leaders in the US and citizens organizations for his publicity move at the church. His threats to deploy the military has increased the criticism of the US State system in the context of the current national crisis.

Responding to Donald Trump’s warning on deploying the Army, the End Gun Violence campaign manager of Amnesty International said: “The violence that can no longer be ignored is the violence  committed against Black lives by the police. The real disgrace is the anti-Black racism of the Trump administration. The president swore an oath to the nation to protect all people -- not just those he deems worthy.” “People are angry. People are exhausted. They have a right to take to the streets and peacefully protest -- everyone has that right.”

The current protest in the US is also a major issue for the forthcoming US presidential poll due in November this year, where the likely Democratic candidate against Trump, former Vice-President Joe Biden, will have to strike a careful balance between validating anger over police mistreatment of minorities, while condemning violence as the current response.  He did make a statement condemning violence and calling for real justice, after prayers at a church.

As the protests spread many international sports people have lined up to voice their support for US protestors. These include Japan’s tennis player Naomi Osaka, who said “there comes a time when silence is betrayal”. She joins others such as basketball great Michael Jordan, and Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton.  Former boxing champion Floyd Mayweather has offered to pay for George Floyd’s funeral and memorial services, which has been accepted by the Floyd family.

As much as the protests taking place throughout the US, this week also saw major protests against the treatment of minorities in the US by people abroad. There were major protests in London in the UK which spread to France, Germany and many other European countries, in Iran in the Middle East, and extended to Brazil, Mexico and New Zealand, showing the impact the treatment of minorities in the US has globally.

Black Americans comprise less than 14 percent of the US population, but face the highest rate of discrimination by the police and other authorities in the country. There have been many instances of Black Americans, both men and women, attacked and killed by the Police, with often delayed and lack of any adequate justice. The situation of the Black American people is made worse with the spread of the Covid-19 virus, with them being the most affected, and also killed by the disease, due to their working in the lower ranks of society, lack of medical facilities, and the recent rise in unemployment.

G7 - Trump & Russia

President Trump who has postponed the Group of Seven - G7 Summit due to be held in the US this month, has raised a new controversy with an offer to invite Russia’s President Vladimir Putin to an expanded G7 meeting in September.

In 1997 Russia was admitted to the group of advanced democratic economies - the US, UK, France, Germany, Italy, Canada and Japan - but was evicted from the Group in 2014 after the Russian annexation of Crimea.

According to Kremlin sources, the US President had initiated a call with President Putin. When they discussed the coronavirus pandemic, oil prices, cooperation in space, and Trump’s postponement of the G7 Summit and the inclusion of other countries, Trump had informed about holding the G7 Summit in the US with possible invitations to leaders of Russia, Australia, India and the Republic of Korea.

The possibility of inviting Russia was raised by Trump last week, after the German Chancellor Angela Merkel said she would not attend the Camp David summit under current conditions.

Trump told reporters: “I don’t feel that as a G7 it properly represents what’s going on in the world. It’s a very outdated group of countries”. He has suggested the creation of an expanded grouping called the G10 or G11, and said the summit could be held before or after the UN General Assembly. The White House has said the proposal was to bring together ‘traditional allies’ to talk about how to deal with China.

A Downing Street spokesperson said Russia should not be a member “unless it ceases aggressive and destabilizing activity that threatens the safety of UK citizens and the collective security of our allies”. Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said: “Russia’s continued disrespect and flaunting of international rules and norms is why it remains outside the G7 and why it will continue to remain out.”

President Trump has repeatedly pressed for Russia’s readmission to the G7, bringing it up at earlier summits, but each time it has been rejected by other members. 

Hong Kong & UK

Nearly a half of the population of Hong Kong - 3 million - will have the opportunity to apply for and obtain UK citizenship once the security legislation affecting Hong Kong  is adopted by the Beijing government.

China’s decision to pass new legislation on national security which will apply to the control of subversion, secession, terrorism and any acts that would threaten national security in the ‘semi-autonomous’ city of Hong Kong, has led to the possibility for citizens of Hong Kong to seek citizenship in the UK, key Commonwealth countries, and the US too.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said the UK will change its immigration rules and offer millions of people in Hong Kong ‘a route to citizenship’ if China imposes new security laws. Writing in the “Times” he said the UK would ‘have no choice’ but to uphold its ties with the territory.

PM Johnson has confirmed that if China passes the law, people in Hong Kong who hold British National (Overseas) (BNO) passports will be allowed to come to the UK for 12 months without a visa. Currently they are allowed to come for six months. Around 350,000 people in Hong Kong currently already have a BNO passport, but 2.6 million others are also eligible.

Passport-holders would also be given further immigration rights, including the right to work. This "could place them on a route to citizenship," Johnson said.

China is facing increasing criticism, particularly from the West, over its planned national security law. Many people in Hong Kong fear it could end their freedoms, which the rest of China does not have.

The UK is already in talks with allies including the US and Australia about what to do if China imposes the new law, and people of Hong Kong start to flee the country.

Johnson has added that the immigration changes "would amount to one of the biggest changes in our visa system in British history". "If it proves necessary, the British government will take this step and take it willingly.”

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has said Washington is considering the option of welcoming people from Hong Kong, after the UK said it was prepared to offer extended visa rights and pathway to citizenship for almost three million Hong Kong residents. Last year President Trump approved legislation stating Hong Kong residents may not be denied visas because they have been subjected to politically motivated arrest, detention, or other adverse government action.

The territory of Hong Kong was a former British colony and was handed over to China in 1997, with a 50-year agreement of a dual governance policy, with Hong Kong having many democratic rights not available in mainland China.

In recent years there have been large protests especially by the young generation of Hong Kong, seeking wider democracy, and leading to frequent clashes with the Hong Kong police, led by the Hong Kong Administration. Hong Kong has a population of 7.45 million.


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