It was at the corner of a street in Saint Paul, Minnesota, last week, the twin sister of Minneapolis where George Floyd died on May 25, killed by police during a mundane arrest. There was a rally, there were speeches, anger… And then, the demonstrators started to spread their indignation in the city, repeating repeatedly the same claim: “This damn system is complete guilty to death. Charge, condemn, send these killer police officers to prison! “
After the blunder, the call for sanctions is heard more and more loudly on the streets in the United States, where, beyond the condemnation of the executioners, it is now the reduction of the operating budgets of the police, deemed too violent, too repressive, that the crowds demand. And this, in order to better finance social programs and aid to the poorest instead.
But if the idea of reforming the police force is making more and more noise, it is still far from making its way, particularly within the two major political parties where this debate was, all week, conducted with some restraint . Not surprisingly, in this country where law, order and security have been important social issues since its founding, especially during an election year.
“Even if I believe that federal money should not go to the police who violate human rights […], I do not support the cuts in the budgets of the police, “wrote ex-vice-president Joe Biden, only candidate with the democratic nomination for the next presidential one, in a letter of opinion published Wednesday in the USA Today. The most left-wing fringe within his party, however, has become the spokesperson for this movement calling for the reduction of police funding since the assassination of George Floyd.
“The best solution is to give the police the resources they need to implement far-reaching reforms and to tie federal funds to the completion of those reforms,” he added.
Thursday, from Dallas, Donald Trump, self-proclaimed “president of law and order”, announced the coming of a presidential decree to encourage the police to “reach higher professional standards” in matters of use of force. He spoke of “force with compassion” and continued to praise the police and the military for suppressing protesters for more than two weeks.
“There will be no cuts,” he said earlier this week. There will be no dismantling of our police. There will be no dissolution of our police. “
Racial tensions seen from Homework
The message is clear. But it is now evolving on social terrain where certainties have been shaken by the events of Minneapolis and by the outbreak of protest and indignation that spread throughout the country in the following days. And no longer only within the African-American community.
According to online polling firm Civiqs, American support for the Black Lives Matter movement has jumped dramatically by 28 points in two weeks, to 53% now. Growth is 15 points among whites, 48 points among 18-24 year olds and 28 points among people without a college diploma. Originally, in 2013, this movement to denounce violence targeting African-Americans was rejected by a large majority of citizens.
It is hard to believe that a more aggressive and militarized police will solve an aggressive police problem. The change is underway.
Better yet, 76% of Americans now say racism and discrimination are a “big problem” in the United States, says a recent Monmouth University poll, up 26 points from five years earlier. Two-thirds are even convinced that the nation’s justice and police system is playing more for whites than blacks, says another CNN poll. In 2016, barely half of Americans were convinced of this.
Republican pollster Frank Luntz, a longtime politician on Twitter, said he has “never seen public opinion move so quickly and so deeply.” “We are a different country today compared to 30 days earlier. “
And in this other new normal, the police institution, through which the violent and lethal expression of discrimination targeting African Americans is passed, can no longer remain as it is, many believe.
Dare to reform
“It is hard to believe that a more aggressive and militarized police will solve an aggressive police problem, commented a few days ago sociologist Joseph Gerteis, professor at the University of Minnesota, in an interview with Duty. The change is underway. We see it with the University of Minnesota and public schools that have decided to cut ties with the Minneapolis Police Service. Municipal officials here and in other cities speak openly about a fundamental restructuring of the police force. None of this would have happened without the protests. “
Former Democratic nomination candidate Kamala Harris, California senator, whose name is regularly mentioned as possible vice-president of the Democratic ticket for the November presidential elections, this week denounced the status quo around a American policy which “encourages more police for more security”. “This model just doesn’t work,” she said in an interview with MSNBC this week.
“Do you know what creates greater security?” It is the funding of our public schools, she added, and this, to avoid that, as currently, two thirds of our teachers in public schools are forced to take money out of their pocket to pay the fees. school supplies. She believes job creation and access to affordable health costs are contributing factors to prosperous and secure communities.
Since 1975, the gap has widened in the United States between the funding of order and that of social programs, now with double the money spent on the police, prisons, justice, compared to that spent on income security, food aid, temporary support for families and the most disadvantaged. The Atlantic put it simply this week: “We feed some, to starve others. “
It is in this context that the plea of Philonise Floyd, the brother of the victim, resounded heavily on Wednesday when he appeared before the judicial commission of the House of Representatives in Washington. Elected officials were studying a bill presented earlier this week by elected Democrats to “change the culture” in the American police. He said he was there to prevent George Floyd from becoming just “another face on a t-shirt, another name on a list that keeps growing.”
” I am tired. I am tired of the pain I feel now and I am tired of the pain I feel every time a black man is killed for no reason. I’m here today to ask you to stop. To stop the pain. “
House of Republican Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy said on Thursday that he was ready to support a national ban on the use of strangulation as a tool for police to monitor a suspect. But like the other elected members of his party, he announced nothing more.