Headlines: June 10, 2020
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Philonise Floyd, the brother of George Floyd testified on Wednesday morning to the House Judiciary Committee on the issue of police accountability. The testimony was held a day after the high-profile victim of a Minneapolis police killing was laid to rest. On the same day the Minneapolis Police Department announced that it would be withdrawing from negotiations with the police union. Police Chief Medaria Arradondo gave a news conference explaining his decision.
Presidential candidate Joe Biden addressed Floyd’s funeral on Tuesday in a 5 minute video taped speech complete with moving soundtrack. Biden, who as Senator invited a police union to help him write a bill on criminal justice has moved somewhat to the left on the issue of police accountability but still maintains an opposition to the new rallying cry of “Defund the Police.” Meanwhile the Republican Party has been caught off guard with the rapidly evolving position of the American population on police violence. As President Donald Trump has focused on spreading lies and conspiracy theories about the victims of police brutality and those protesting it, and cast himself as the “law and order” president, some GOP lawmakers are scrambling to distance themselves from this tone-deaf rhetoric. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has asked Senator Tim Scott – the only black Republican Senator – to lead the party’s response to the current political landscape. However, Senator Tom Cotton, who has openly called for the deployment of the US military to squash American protests, has introduced a bill opposing the defunding of police departments.
In another sign of the times we live in, the long-running pro-police reality TV show called Cops, was canceled. Launched in 1989, Cops for more than 3 decades reinforced the notions that police always acted in the best interest of the public and that black and brown victims were deserving of arrests. On the day that the show was scheduled to premiere its 33rd season The Paramount network, which had taken over the show from Fox announced it would not air. In a similar move, HBO Max has announced it will temporarily stop streaming the film Gone With The Wind. In a statement HBO said, “These racist depictions were wrong then and are wrong today, and we felt that to keep this title up without an explanation and a denouncement of those depictions would be irresponsible.”
In another sign of the changing times, the New York state legislature adopted a large set of police reforms which Gov. Andrew Cuomo has promised to sign into law. Although the reforms do not go far enough according to critics, the New York statewide police union president denounced state lawmakers saying, “The message has been sent very clearly to police officers by our elected officials: We don’t like you. We don’t respect you. We will not support you. We want you to go away.” The New York police Benevolent Association President Mike O’Meara echoed this defiance saying NYPD was not like Minneapolis’ police department: “it’s not what police officers do. … He killed someone. We didn’t. We are restrained.” NYPD has a long history of police killings and over the past 3 weeks has been among the most violent across the nation in handling peaceful protests.
Activists around the world are targeting statues that glorify historic racism. Here in the US activists destroyed two statues of Christopher Columbus in Massachusetts and Virginia. The Virginia statue was toppled and dumped in a lake. In Britain, where a statue of a slave trader was toppled and thrown into a river, there is now a fierce debate over a Winston Churchill statue. And in Belgium, Black Lives Matter activists want to bring down a statue of King Leopold over his racist and colonialist legacy.
While primary elections were held in four states in the US on Tuesday, the state of Georgia made the most headlines. Across the state that is known for its disenfranchisement of people of color, officials struggled with a new $100 million voting machine system that resulted in many hours of wait times particularly in communities of color. The day ended with an extended window to vote and a promise of investigations rather than an announcement of winners.
In news related to the on-going coronavirus pandemic, troubling signs of a resurgence of infections are on the American horizon. Although infection rates in 24 states are trending downward, in 7 states they are holding steady, but 19 others are seeing a troubling rise in Covid-19 cases. Chief among them is Arizona where health experts are warning that hospitals may be reaching their bed capacity quite soon. The nation’s chief infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci is warning that the pandemic is “far from over,” and that the virus is “his worst nightmare.” More than 110,000 people have died in the US alone and globally that figure is 400,000. Fauci added, “Where is it going to end? We’re still at the beginning of it.” A new study published in Britain concluded that a second wave of infections could be staved off if enough of a nation’s population wore face masks – even homemade cloth masks. The study’s lead author said, “Our analyses support the immediate and universal adoption of facemasks by the public.”
While the US has been the leader in coronavirus infections and deaths for some months, Latin America’s most populous country could overtake it. There has been a deeply troubling rise of Covid-19 infections in Brazil, where the spread of the disease has been described as a “free fall.” In Brazil’s favelas, home to many of the nation’s poorest, residents have taken to organizing their own response to the virus in the absence of leadership from Brazil’s authoritarian president Jair Bolsonaro. According to the Washington Post, “In São Paulo, people who live in poorer areas and contract the virus are up to 10 times more likely to die than people in wealthy areas, according to data released by the city’s health department. Black São Paulo residents are 62 percent more likely to die from the virus than white residents.” The Bolsonaro government recently came under fire for manipulating Covid-19 data and was forced by the nation’s supreme court to restore a national tracking database. Most troublingly there are now reports that Bolsonaro’s government is exploring the use of the military in order to hold on to power. Bolsonaro’s own son, who is an admirer of Brazil’s former military dictatorship said, “It’s no longer an opinion about if, but when this will happen.”