Stopping the spiral of violence that has engulfed hundreds of cities across the United States in the wake of the death of African-American George Floyd at the hands of a police officer in Minneapolis is essential to recognize the magnitude of the discriminatory use of excessive force. It is urgent to find honest and permanent solutions to the open wound from which rage spread through the streets.
It is a fact that President Trump does not seem to be up to the task in this case. This time, it seems that the President and his advisors underestimated the outrage that the terrible images of Floyd’s arrest and death sparked across the nation.
It is very difficult for a human being, regardless of race, education, or political affiliation, not to feel identified and ashamed by the scenes seen around the world: a man handcuffed, reduced to absolute helplessness, who is dying asking to be allowed to breathe, while those passing-by were trying to convince an agent who looks undeterred and the abuse continued while the victim was possibly already dead.
The level of tension and anguish experienced globally, especially in the United States, where the COVID-19 pandemic is reaching two million positive cases and deaths total more than 104,000, is emerging as one of the factors triggering outrage onto the streets. Fires and looting erupted amid the uncontrollable advance of groups of protesters, which may include some elements that are not part of the genuine demands for justice.
Law and order forces, with their image tarnished by some of their members involved in questionable incidents that have resulted in the deaths of African Americans and other minorities, are unable to protect life and property. The results include damage to commercial chains, but also small businesses in the African-American and Latino communities. In a situation like this, everyone suffers, particularly before the lack of a figure who could channel a pain of undoubted magnitude.
The unrest collides with the dangers of a resurgence of the coronavirus in places where it was beginning to slow down. It is impossible to maintain social distancing measures in demonstrations and struggles with the police, especially in those situations where they fire tear gas or rubber bullets, besides many lose their masks or take them off. Even when they march outdoors, overcrowding is such that health authorities have expressed alarm.
Those responsible for Floyd’s death must be held accountable to the full extent of the law. But beyond this unfortunate situation in Minneapolis, the nation deserves that its political and civil society leadership take concrete action to put an end to how law enforcement agencies denigrate the lives of minorities.
It is urgent to resolve the ethical step back of one of the most powerful nations, in freefall into an abyss of outbursts, threats, and lack of compassion that are the breeding ground for this dangerous war seen in the streets.
Our feelings, too, must be with Puerto Rican communities living in the affected states. Brothers and sisters who have experienced the scourge of racism and who in different ways express their solidarity. Now they add, to the already long list of difficulties stemming from the pandemic, this obstacle that affects their aspirations and, in many cases, has wiped out what they have been building.
American people are writing a critical chapter in their history. It must not be intensified by calls for repression. The moment calls, not for severe military responses, but important actions along with a constructive and good-faith dialogue. The will for social justice is a task for the political leadership and civil society of the United States.