Do the massive protests in the United States sound the death knell for racism and police violence? The question agitates the country, scalded by the failure of previous mobilizations to establish “racial justice”.
What’s new in these protests?
From Miami to Seattle, via New York or Los Angeles, crowds have been pounding the pavement since a white police officer asphyxiated George Floyd, a 46-year-old African American on May 25 in Minneapolis.
It is not the first time that the country has ignited after the death of a black man at the hands of the police. But the protests had never been so large since the civil rights movement in the 1960s.
Above all, for the first time in years, the processions include many white Americans. “It is very encouraging to see people of all origins,” commented AC Channer, a black musician who met a few days ago at the scene of the drama. “I think everyone has had enough!” He added, hoping for change.
What are the first advances?
This mobilization first helped to change mentalities.
Almost half of Americans (49%) today believe that the police are more likely to use excessive force against a black suspect, up from 25% in 2016, according to a survey by Monmouth University.
“Seven years ago, it was extremely radical to say + Black lives matter +,” one of the founders of the movement, Patrisse Cullors, recently recalled. Now the term is written in capital letter across from the White House with the support of the mayor of Washington.
More concretely, several cities have announced the first reforms of their police services: Houston has prohibited the use of “bottlenecks”, Washington will exclude unions from disciplinary proceedings against its agents, New York wants to make its liabilities accessible to the public…
At the national level, the elected Democrats in Congress have introduced legislation that attacks, among other things, the broad immunity enjoyed by police officers.
Will they be sufficient?
The reforms are complicated by the fact that in the United States there are nearly 18,000 autonomous police entities (municipal police, county sheriffs, state patrols, etc.) which have their own rules for recruitment, training, practices. allowed … “We absolutely need to have federal standards,” said Houston police chief Art Acevedo during a congressional hearing.
However, the deep divisions between elected Democrats and Republicans leave little chance for the emergence of a consensual text. While denouncing a “horrible” crime, the party of President Donald Trump sees in it the work of “a rotten apple” and refuses a deep overhaul of the police.
What more is needed?
“We have to start educating our next leader so that he can succeed Jesse Jackson,” an aging spokesman for the black cause, recently noted Jalilia Abdul-Brown, a cross-militant in Minneapolis.
But for the Black lives matter movement, it’s better. “Our generation does not want to have a single messenger, especially because it is not safe,” said Patrisse Cullors. “So we work on the message as a team even if sometimes it takes a little more time”.
It can also create confusion. The emergence of the slogan “defund the police” was thus perceived as going too far, even if its authors wish above all to insist on the need to allocate more funds to the fight against socio-economic inequalities. -economic (education, health …) affecting African-Americans.
In fact, Donald Trump, who will run for a second term on November 3, seized it to denounce “the radical left”. “This is pure madness,” said Republican MP Jim Jordan on Wednesday.
What about elections?
“The purpose of the protests is to educate the public about injustices and make the powerful uncomfortable,” said former Democratic President Barack Obama on the Medium blog platform. “But in the end, aspirations have to translate into laws and institutional practices and democracy, that only happens when you vote.”
“The elected officials who matter most when it comes to police reform work at the local or state level,” he said, before concluding: “Let’s get to work.”