“[…] It is not that there haven’t been demonstrations and protests as a result of the killing of innocent black Americans before. That has been a part of America’s history. But analysts, commentators and activists all agree that this time there is something different.
“There is a different feel—a different vibe, with the response being much more broad-based. There is the belief that some level of change and progress can consequently be achieved. There is a feeling of hope in the midst of some skepticism…”
The following statement on the global response to the police killing of unarmed, handcuffed ‘black’ American George Floyd was submitted to Wired868 by the National Joint Action Committee (NJAC):
The National Joint Action Committee (NJAC) views it as grimly ironic, that on 25 May—a day commemorated internationally as African Liberation Day, which seeks to focus on the development and state of Africans in Africa and the diaspora—the world could witness the cruel, painful and horrific murder of an innocent African-American, George Floyd, at the knee of a white police officer.
The words ‘I can’t breathe’ uttered by George Floyd as his life was being snuffed out by that police officer, are now well known internationally. So horrific was his murder, that it brought to life a movement of the people in the United States, under the banner, ‘no justice, no peace’.
It has caused white people in America to take a deeper look at themselves and at the historical experience of the African within that society. Many did not like what they saw and the nature of the death of George Floyd hit the conscience of many white Americans and reached their souls.
Consequently, in the face of a system in the USA that has shown total disregard for the lives and plight of black people, they joined the black Americans on the streets, in a movement of the people for justice. It is a movement which cuts across race, class, age and gender, but with significant numbers of youths participating and which promotes the principle that ‘Black Lives Matter’.
It is not that there haven’t been demonstrations and protests as a result of the killing of innocent black Americans before. That has been a part of America’s history. But analysts, commentators and activists all agree that this time there is something different.
There is a different feel—a different vibe, with the response being much more broad-based. There is the belief that some level of change and progress can consequently be achieved. There is a feeling of hope in the midst of some skepticism.
In this era of technological advancement, people were able to see this particular horrendous and racist act, watching cable tv in their living rooms and on social media; and for them, it was a bridge too far. George Floyd’s death was like the last straw that broke the camel’s back.
What America has been seeing since the death of George Floyd, is a demonstration of people’s power and the impact that people’s power can have on the life of a nation.
NJAC understands what people’s power can do. In 1970, the people, under NJAC’s leadership, marched continuously for 56 days, demanding justice—demanding a new and just society. That movement of the people led to significant positive changes being made that improved the lives of the people and the nation.
NJAC can therefore easily empathise with what is taking place in the USA and around the world today.
In America, demonstrations continue to take place with a passion since the death of George Floyd. The vast majority of people on the streets have been demonstrating peacefully and they have not let rubber bullets, pepper spray, tear gas and shows of military force, deter them from their objective.
They have been willing to risk their lives in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic for a cause that is greater than themselves. It is a pursuit of justice—not only for George Floyd, but for other black victims of police brutality and for systemic change in the justice system in which racism and racial discrimination is embedded.
It is seeking to redress the plight of African Americans, in a system that has historically and generationally disadvantaged them, in all various spheres of life.
That determination of the demonstrators, has led celebrities, corporations, high profile personalities in various fields, all professing and in some cases, concretely demonstrating, their support for the calls of demonstrators for justice for George Floyd, and for demands to put in place systems that can assist in eradicating racism, racial discrimination and police brutality.
They have seen police chiefs join the marches and take a knee. Rev Scott Hagan and the leadership of the President of North Central University, Minnesota, have established the George Floyd Scholarship Fund in George Floyd’s memory.
Michael Jordan, who for his entire career had made it a personal policy to be apolitical and not to make any public political statements, has, along with the Nike brand, now pledged over the next ten years, to contribute US$100 million to organisations dedicated to racial equality, social justice and education access.
The powerful National Football League (NFL) which got rid of Colin Kaepernick for taking a knee, has now come out and said that Black Lives Matter. And there are many, many other examples.
But more than all of this, they have begun to see results in terms of their calls for justice. The policeman who kneed George Floyd to death and his three accomplices have already been charged within an unprecedented space of time that would seem like a miracle, given the length of time it takes to charge a police officer (a very rare event) who kills a black man in America.
The Minnesota Department of Human Rights announced a civil rights probe into the Minneapolis Police Department’s policies, procedures and practices going back 10 years. Various discussions are being held in terms of policies that can be drawn up and implemented, in order to transform the social, economic and justice systems and thereby accord the black man in America, equal rights and justice.
All this and more, through the demonstration of people’s power triggered by the death of George Floyd. That is why NJAC has always said that ‘People’s Power is a Beautiful Thing’. With George Floyd’s murder and the response by the people in America being witnessed across the globe, there have been demonstrations of solidarity taking place in many countries.
Black people in these countries have been inspired and motivated by the movement in America and have taken to the streets calling for justice for George Floyd and protesting against institutionalised racism, racial discrimination and police brutality within their societies.
They understand only too well, that the problems of black people in America are also the problems faced within their societies. As have been taking place in America, they are being joined by many white people, in solidarity with their cause, with the call for systemic reform and an end to police brutality and echoing the rallying cry ‘Black Lives Matter’.
NJAC appeals to the conscience of every human being throughout the world, particularly in the USA, to let the death of George Floyd, be utilised as a point at which a forward step can be taken, towards eradicating racism and racial discrimination the world over.
Just as the Civil Rights Movement of the 60s and the Liberation Movement of the 70s, let this most tragic experience set in motion a new awakening amongst humanity, to further advance the struggle towards a new environment—where every human being regardless of race, colour or creed is treated with equal respect and dignity as every human being deserves.
In that way, NJAC believes that the tragic death of George Floyd, which symbolises the experience of the African over centuries, the world over, would at least have greater meaning.