“I was ten when the police first stormed our apartment. Neighbors had called because my big brother was too loud for them. They rushed in, threw him on the floor and held him in a stranglehold. They took him overnight he went to prison with him. He then had to go to the hospital for three weeks. ”
Jeff Gomes is an African-American and is 26 years old today. At the time, his brother was just at home, unarmed, but drunk and too loud for the neighbors’ taste. The police officers broke his knee and injured his neck, he reports. Gomes’ memory is more present today than ever. “They were just as brutal as with George Floyd, only my brother got away with it back then. Now that I see the videos of George Floyd and Amaud Arbery everywhere, everything comes back to me.” Nobody was brought to justice at the time, he says.
“I noticed from an early age that it is better not to be black”
Gomes has long been unable to count how many times the police have stopped him since then. “If I only see a police car, my stomach cramps. My heart starts racing. When I see a police officer, my sweat breaks out.”
Studies have repeatedly shown that police officers stop African-American drivers and passers-by on the open road far more often than white Americans. “It is enough for them to see a sports bag in the passenger seat. Drugs could be hidden in it. That is enough as a suspicion.” The last time he was held in handcuffs for fifteen minutes because of his sports bag. Then he was allowed to continue. “They said they just wanted to make sure everything was fine.” For him it is clear: “The reason for this was of course my skin color.”
Gomes is a teacher by profession. He was born and raised in southern Boston. “From an early age, I realized that it was better not to be black. Even when I was in elementary school, I sometimes pretended to be Portuguese. I don’t know if anyone took it from me. There were many Portuguese in our residential area Immigrants. I wanted to be like them, the cops were much nicer to them too. “
Cases like George Floyd are nothing new
Like him – and according to studies many young African-Americans – Terrence Bazile has been stopped countless times by white police officers. “I panic every time, even though I know that I have to keep calm. My parents taught me this as a child: keep calm and respectful, don’t run away and, above all, never be rude. It can be a matter of life or death . ”
The 24-year-old economics student reveals that he is actually constantly afraid of the police – almost always on the way to university, to the supermarket, while shopping, while jogging. “My father and uncle have had terrible police things. They never wanted to talk big about it, and I still don’t know what exactly happened. We all felt that they didn’t want to tell details, probably not in front of us children to be seen as weak.
But cases like George Floyd are nothing new, just that the video footage is available today. “Bazile is convinced that most African Americans fear police violence and fear for their children’s lives.” Cops are never on your side to bring that about black parents especially with their sons from an early age. The main thing is that the children come back home alive in the evening. ”
Sometimes he dares to ask the police officers in a very respectful manner why they stopped him. “Did I go too fast? Did I miss a stop sign? Most of the time the answer is: just to make sure everything is OK.” Even if the officials then let him continue later, after these incidents he is nervously at the end. “These surveys get you down to business.” He was recently stopped on the way to a restaurant. “After that, when they let me go free, I didn’t want to eat anything anymore. I trembled and couldn’t bring a bite down.”
“There just has to be a new president”
Both Jeff Gomes and Terrence Bazile have high hopes for protest marches across the country. Both are concerned about the riots. “If only we had another president. Donald Trump’s provocations fuel the violence even more. His tweets are the worst thing that a US president has ever said,” says Gomes.
He blames the president and his followers for the country’s division. “I don’t want violence, but if it has to go so far that the whole country burns, then maybe it should be like that. It feels like we have civil war. There is no neutral side anymore. Everyone has to show now where he is. “
Bazile also believes that only a change of office in the White House can bring the necessary changes. He wants to do what he can to get more African Americans to vote in November. In 2016, many black voters stayed at home, which benefited Donald Trump. “There just has to be a new president, otherwise this nightmare will not end.”
He sees reason for optimism in the fact that many white people are protesting this time, in the USA and all over the world. “It’s just great that people in Europe, Mexico, Canada and Australia stand by us. It’s really incredible that people in Berlin actually take to the streets for us. Incredible and wonderful at the same time.”