By Robert Inlakesh
Disturbing footage of a black man being choked to death by a Minneapolis police officer in the United States has sparked online outrage and street protests over what is being described as the lynching of an unarmed black man by armed police. The reaction to this now opens up a wider conversation about why these incidents happen and how the follow-up to the crime is so similar to when Palestinians are killed by Israeli troops.
At around 8.PM, Monday morning, Minneapolis police officers were called to a Cup Foods’ store on the 3700 block of Chicago Avenue South. The suspect was a black man, named George Floyd, who was allegedly attempting to use forged documents. Police spokesperson John Elders claimed that George Floyd had resisted arrest and then went on to say, “Officers were able to get the suspect into handcuffs and officers noticed that the man was going into medical distress.”
However, the alleged “medical distress,” which the police were having the public believe and caused the death of George Floyd, was caught on camera. The video footage shot by a bystander and released onto Facebook this Tuesday, shows 10 minutes, in which the alleged “criminal” was indeed the victim of police brutality. The video shows an officer, allegedly identified as Derek Chauvin (badge number: #1087), pressing his knee into the victim’s neck for at least seven minutes as the victim screamed, “I cannot breathe” and “my neck hurts,” whilst pleading for his life. Bystanders also scream at the three officers present, which intensifies as the victim passes out unconscious, at which point the officer's knee is still planted firmly into the victim's neck.
The officers present have now been placed on paid leave and the FBI has been called to deal with the situation, which many pundits have pointed out may have to do with the reaction to this case.
The reaction to such a murder
This is far from the first incident of its kind in the United States, where white police officers have choked to death unarmed black men begging for their lives, with the most infamous case being the killing of Eric Garner, which did not result in the conviction of any officer.
So, what routinely happens when a case like this appears, especially such a clear cut case. First of all, we see the police statements assuming no responsibility for the death, which occurred in their custody. We see armies of social media warriors coming out to defend the officers and claim that the black man killed was a criminal and ultimately the media follows suit by reporting on all the previous allegations against the victim.
The reactions from the public on the opposite side of the argument are usually to condemn and demand justice, usually resulting in protests and even riots.
However, the arguments coming from the African American community are rarely ever aired and real discussions about what enables a police officer to use such violence is also not discussed even nearly enough.
As usual as with other places in the world where oppressed communities are attacked, like in occupied Palestine, we see a similar campaign of victim blaming online by the privileged community (the Israelis and their supporters). It does not matter how horrendous the crime, nor whether the videos posted online show the entire incident, Israelis will jump to conclusions and will claim that all the information has not yet surfaced and claim that the Palestinian victim was some sort of terrorist or criminal.
We also see that the Israeli military and police -- if the murder is committed in Jerusalem al-Quds or elsewhere inside the Israeli-occupied territory -- will instantly claim that its troops had been under instant threat and that the death of the Palestinian was some sort of dramatic accident. It does not matter how many thousands of Palestinians are killed by the Israeli occupation forces, every time the privileged Israeli community will largely jump to defend the killing and even laugh at it. This is especially the case as in Israel, the regime behind the occupation forces and illegal settlers, who kill Palestinians, consistently propagate ethnic supremacy and ultra-nationalism.
The fact of the matter is that being able to kill someone with such ease and be fine with lying and justifying your actions, speaks to the lack of humanity in the murder. That lack of humanity may come from many sources, whether it be the psychology of some fake superiority complex of those in uniform or whether it be both societal and systematic hatred perpetuated against those policed. In order to kill so easily and so brutally, first you must find a justification; whether that be through dehumanizing the victim or carrying around hatred which enables the rage to commit such an act.
When people speak of racist police murders in the United States, to pass this by and claim that race does not play as a factor, is utter lunacy. The way black people are viewed in the United States, presented in mainstream media, and the poor socio-economic conditions under which large portions of the African American community suffer are not to be ignored. There is also on top of this, the racism prevalent inside the police, the lack of transparency from the police, the history of racism against African Americans, and the deep-rooted stereotypes about black people in the US and throughout the Western world. This is of course only emboldened by the likes of Donald Trump, sitting in the White House, who consistently uses language that can often be interpreted in two ways -- that many US voters do see as racist and do identify with.
This sort of racism is on a larger (percentage wise) and more obvious scale, prevalent inside of Israeli society and promoted by the Israeli regime, against the indigenous population of Palestine. Where daily shootings of Palestinians is justified in the eyes of Israelis over “security” concerns for the Israeli forces, with the assumption that the Palestinian must have been involved in a crime -- a racist notion -- and that, therefore, the murder or severe injury of the victim is somehow justified.
Just as a black man was choked to death yesterday, by what could be described as thugs in uniforms, three Palestinians were also shot this Monday by Israeli forces. If you are to look online at the responses to these two cases, you will see the same thing with both. On one side there are those outraged and then there are those working to justify the act by any means necessary, even if that means ignoring the video and eye-witness testimony evidence.
(Robert Inlakesh is a journalist, writer and political analyst, who has lived in and reported from the occupied Palestinian West Bank. He has written for publications such as Mint Press, Mondoweiss, MEMO, and various other outlets. He specializes in analysis of the Middle East, in particular Palestine-Israel. He also works for Press TV as a European correspondent).