‘Black Lives’ bring new drive in US politics | Daily News


‘Black Lives’ bring new drive in US politics

Relatives with the golden casket bearing the remains of George Floyd at his funeral
Relatives with the golden casket bearing the remains of George Floyd at his funeral

While passing the seven million mark in the spread of coronavirus globally and over 400,000 deaths, the United States of America retained its global dominance in news with the funeral of George Floyd, the African American whose death in police custody spawned global outrage, as seen in many democracies.

The widespread demonstrations in the US supporting the Black Lives Matter call, and the demand for better control of the police in keeping with social realities in a democracy, shows major political confrontations in the country as it moves to the next presidential election in November this year.

The final words of George Floyd “I can’t breathe,” became a rallying cry, sparking widespread protests against police brutality and racial injustice in the US, where some city and state authorities are already taking action to stop the ‘chokehold’ of persons arrested by the police, which was how George Floyd died, and moving to bring better controls over the police, as well as give more publicity to the internal police administrations in the country.

As consensus grows about the existence of systemic racism in American policing and other facets of American life, longtime organisers of the Black Lives Matter movement are trying to extend its momentum beyond the popularization of a phrase. Activists sense a once-in-a-generation opportunity to demand policy changes that once seemed far-fetched, including sharp cuts to police budgets in favour of social programmes, and greater accountability for policemen who kill citizens.

President Donald Trump walks to the Church with Defence Secretary Mark Esper and top military chief Mark Milley

There is a likelihood of new protests after the Austin police released a body-camera video of a 2019 car chase that led to a black man’s death in the custody of sheriff’s deputies, which also shows the man dying after a choke hold. The victim, Javier Ambler, was asked by sheriff’s deputies in Williamson County, Texas, to pull over for failing to dim his headlights. When he did not stop, he was chased by sheriff and police vehicles for about 20 minutes, before the car crashed. The video shows the use of a Taser on him several times - causing temporary paralysis - and tried to move him onto his stomach, while he told that he had congestive heart failure and could not breathe.

It is now learnt more than a year later that the related District Attorney intends to present this case to a grand jury. The video of this death has now gone into TV news just as the killing of George Floyd did.

The protests at the killing of George Floyd and in support of Black Lives Matter spread to neighbouring Canada, many countries in Europe, particularly the UK and France, and Australia too, where there were major protests in support of the Black people of the US and against the historic impact of racism against Black people that came from the Slave Trade and colonialism. Tens of thousands have participated in these protests that show the rise of new political movements against the current nations state policies, with lack of social-democracy.

Statues Exit

These protests also saw the removal of statues of persons known for their involvement with the slavery of Black people and colonial legacies in the West. In Bristol, England, protestors toppled the statue of Edward Colston in the English city of Bristol, rolled it through the streets and pushed into the nearby harbour. He was a leader in the British slave trade in the 1600s, led the British Royal African Company, which transported more than 80,000 enslaved people to the New World.

Later, the London Mayor Sadiq Khan said a commission would review statues and landmarks in the British capital, having links to slavery. The local officials have now removed the statue of Robert Milligan, who in the early 19th century helped build London’s West India Docks to facilitate the trade of sugar and enslaved people.

In Belgian city of Antwerp, the authorities took down the statue of King Leopold II, and placed it in a museum, after protesters burned and vandalized it. This Belgian king’s colonial regime was responsible for the death and mutilation of millions of Congolese people at the turn of the 20th century.

In the US statues of explorers and Confederate leaders have been torn down by protesters. A statue of Confederate President Jefferson Davis was toppled in Richmond, Virginia. Elsewhere in the city a statue of explorer Christopher Columbus - the 15th-century Italian explorer who opened up the Americas for conquest and colonization by Europeans -was pulled down, set on fire and thrown into the lake.

Memorials to the Confederacy, a group of southern states that fought to keep black people as slaves in the American Civil War of 1861-65, have been among those targeted by demonstrators taking to the streets after the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody.

A three-metre tall (10ft) bronze statue of Italian explorer Columbus was also toppled in Saint Paul, Minnesota on Wednesday. Statues of Columbus in Boston, Massachusetts and in Miami, Florida were also vandalised. The one in Boston, which stands on a plinth at the heart of town, was beheaded.

While many people in the US celebrate the memory of Columbus, who is credited with discovering "the New World", the Americas, in the 15th century, Native American activists have long objected to honouring Columbus, saying his expeditions to the Americas led to the colonisation and genocide of their ancestors.

US Politics

Politics in the US is getting more heated with all the protests in the past two weeks. The Democratic rival to President Trump, Joe Biden, has now obtained the necessary number of votes for his nomination at the coming Democratic Party convention. His ratings are also rising in opinion polls. Donald Trump is keen to retain his strength among the Southern voters, who were the key to his victory at the election in 2016.

The controversial statue of General Robert E Lee in Richmond

Support for the Confederate leaders who were opposed to the ban of slavery in the US is one of the key features of the politics of Donald Trump in the context of the mounting criticism of his policies by the public, especially after the George Floyd death.

President Trump has said he would “not even consider” renaming US military bases that are named after Confederate military leaders, even though the Pentagon has indicated it is open to the idea, proposed by the anti-racism activists in current protests.

This has sparked a fresh national conversation around entrenched racism, including controversial public statues, buildings and street names that honour figures from the slave-owning south in the US civil war.

Earlier this week a US army spokesperson said the Defence Secretary, Mark Esper and Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy, “are open to a bipartisan discussion on the topic”, reversing decades of Pentagon opposition to the idea of renaming bases named after Confederate war leaders.

But Trump has angrily denounced the idea, on Twitter.

“These Monumental and very Powerful Bases have become part of a Great American Heritage, and a … history of Winning, Victory, and Freedom,” Trump wrote in a new tweet thread.

“The United States of America trained and deployed our HEROES on these Hallowed Grounds, and won two World Wars. Therefore, my Administration will not even consider the renaming of these Magnificent and Fabled Military Installations … Our history as the Greatest Nation in the World will not be tampered with. Respect our Military!”

Trump listed several bases such as Fort Bragg in North Carolina, Fort Hood in Texas and Fort Benning in Georgia, all of which are named after prominent Confederate war leaders.

On Monday, a court in Virginia temporarily blocked moves by the State Governor to remove a huge statue of the Confederate General Robert E Lee from the state capital, Richmond. This was the same general whose statue in Charlottesville, Virginia, became a focus of a rally of the far right in 2017, where a counter-protester was killed.

Also on Wednesday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi urged Congress to take steps to remove from the US Capitol 11 statues representing Confederate leaders and soldiers from the civil war. “Their statues pay homage to hate, not heritage. They must be removed,” Pelosi said in a letter to leaders of a congressional committee in charge of managing the statues in the Capitol.

With the US still facing the spread of Covid-19 and a rise in infections seen in the recent weeks, and the major decline in the US Economy due to Covid-19, and the new division in national politics on Black Lives Matter and the fight against racism, the US will be moving to a heated and fiery campaign by the Republican and Democratic parties, as well as a rise in the activity of independents.

Covid -19 Spread

The US remains in the lead on the spread of Covid-19, passing the 2 million mark having 2,000, 464 infected and 112,924 deaths, followed by Brazil with 772,416 infected and 39,680 deaths, with more daily deaths than any other nation. There is much criticism of the Brazilian Government’s records on the deaths, and the Brazilian Supreme Court had to order the Government to publish the daily and continued records, which the Government of President Jair Bolsonaro recently stopped. Health experts say infections are expected to rise even further, as the outbreak is still weeks away from its peak, putting more strain on hospitals.

Russia remains in third place on infections with 501,800 and 6,522 deaths. There are also many doubts about the accuracy of the Russian figures of the deceased, considering the wider spread of the virus. The UK has 291,588 infected and officially 41,213 deaths - which too is expected to be higher on a fuller analysis. India is now in the fifth position with 286,576 infections and 8,012 deaths.

There is rising concern of a second wave of Covid-19 in Iran, where the infected is 186,156 with 8,584 deaths. The Iranian Government is not moving to impose a second lockdown in the current situation considering its considerable problems with sanctions imposed by the US and the decline in oil prices.

India has 286,576 infected and 8,102 deaths, but there is growing concern about a much wider spread of the virus in the country. India's financial capital, Mumbai, has recorded 51,000 cases of Covid, taking it past the peak in Wuhan, where the virus first emerged.

Infections are also spiking in the capital Delhi, where authorities have said they expect to see more than half a million cases by the end of July. The surge coincides with India's decision to relax restrictions after three months of a stringent lockdown that was intended to curb the spread of the virus.

On June 8, shopping malls, places of worship and offices were allowed to reopen. Before that, shops, market places and transport services had all been allowed to operate as well. The Indian Government had no option but to lift the huge lockdown, considering the huge toll on the economy. Millions have already lost their jobs and livelihoods, businesses are shutting down, and the fear of hunger drove masses of daily-wage migrant workers to flee cities -mostly on foot because public transport was halted overnight. Many of them died of exhaustion and starvation, in what has been called a human tragedy.

While there is much hope that most of India's undetected infections would not be severe enough to require hospitalisation, the number of rising cases shows that the country could simply be witnessing a late peak in cases, experts say.

What is concerning them however, is that even though States were using the lockdown period to ramp up health facilities, hospitals in major cities are being overwhelmed.

India - China

Tensions between the two nuclear-armed neighbours have been inflamed as Indian and Chinese troops are now locked in a tense stand-off at multiple locations along their disputed 3,488-km boundary on the Tibetan plateau. Several rounds of talks have failed to resolve the differences.

The border issues in the mountains between the two major economic and political countries in Asia, shows geopolitical tensions and alignments involved are much bigger. India’s growing relationship with the West, and President Trump’s warmth to India, especially in his current confrontations with China, bring warnings of a global conflict based on these Asian countries. New Delhi’s recently imposed restrictions on Chinese investment in the country, and Trump’s invitation to India to participate in the upcoming G7 meeting has drawn scathing comments from the Chinese media.

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