Yes the police work in difficult circumstances, yes policing an armed population is fraught. None of that matters. None of that is an excuse for the 571 dead this year alone. The reality according to Fatal Encounter is that Philando Castile, Alton Sterling, and Walter Scott are just three of at least 2,009 people killed by police since August 9, 2014, the day of the Michael Brown shooting in Ferguson, Missouri.
Speaking to a dozen visiting Americans at the weekend, three messages occurred over and over. The first was a crushing realisation that Trump might win, and the idea of Clinton as some kind of liberal certainty now we’ve dispensed with ‘Krazy Lefty Bernie’ is just another lazy assumption, second I heard people giving serious voice to the idea that the police should just be disbanded given the absolute collapse of discipline and trust, and the third was that “Make America Great Again” was really code, code for ‘Make America White Again”.
Many of the people I spoke to were veterans of the civil rights movement. What they described were political and social changes that would undo fifty years of progressive gains as America hurtles back to the cultural status of 1956, armed with the weaponry of 2016.
The state murder of Alton Sterling followed by the execution of Philando Castile in Minnesota has led to huge peaceful protests by the black community – and now wider communities in solidarity, but after Dallas it has also sparked the arrival of a new military policing.
This is morphing from an issue of race to the people versus the state.
The need for solidarity, and government intervention has never been clearer.
You can’t win a physical battle against a military police force with an armed white militia in the background.
The message from the police is clear in each botched gruesome arrest: “Stop resisting”.
— greg (@n9viv) July 11, 2016
What is the impact of our experience of routinely watching people being murdered online?
We used to treat the people from the olden days with a bit of a contemporary sneer. How could they be so debased to have a crowd turn to up for an execution? Now we do it at on our swivel chairs whilst munching a tuna sandwich and a flat-white.
The #BlackLivesMatter isn’t the first political movement focused around a hash-tag, but it’s maybe the first in which the social media was such a pivotal legal and communicative part. Recording, streaming and sharing police atrocities is now a mainstream part of our media diet.
“An NPR investigation found that since 2006, the Pentagon has given local police departments around $1.9 billion worth of equipment. That includes 79,288 assault rifles, 205 grenade launchers, 11,959 bayonets, 479 bomb robots — like the one Dallas police used to kill a gunman during a standoff last week — and $124 million worth of night-vision equipment.”
This is a media war and we’re all combatants. The man who posted the film of the police shooting Alton Sterling has been arrested.
We need to know this reality. We need to see this. But clicking and liking and sharing won’t cut it.
The perils of clicktivism seem really precise today.
— Tuomas Rimpiläinen (@TRimpilainen) July 11, 2016
We need to move quickly from the dangers of a quasi-voyeuristic passivity to a much more active coordinated solidarity. If the anti-apartheid movement of the 1970s and 80s had echoes of the civil rights movement in the deep south, the movement against police brutality now has echoes of apartheid South Africa.
Our response no needs to mirror that of the Anti-Apartheid Movement, but this time against America, with boycotts and actions of solidarity against the US State.