Kristian Williams: ⁠The moral force of violence and the limits of reform

After George Floyd’s murder, the authorities’ moved fast to indict the killers. But protests and riots erupted nonetheless, because reform is not enough.

Roar Magazine, June 13, 2020

The video is disturbing, damning and inarguable. It shows a white police officer, Derek Chauvin, kneeling on the neck of an African-American man, George Floyd, as he lay handcuffed and prone in the street. The video shows Floyd complaining that he cannot breathe, begging for his life, calling for his mother. It shows onlookers remonstrating with the cops, arguing with them, and pleading. And it shows the cops’ absolute indifference to human life, human decency, morality, reason and the law.

The video spread with lightning spread across the internet and around the world. Demonstrations soon followed, many of which turned into riots. Within a week, over a hundred cities had seen protests. Police cars, police stations and courthouses have been burned. Stores have been looted. Cops, protestors, bystanders and journalists have all been injured; at least 22 have died. As always, the casualties are mostly protestors injured by police.

At first glance, this all seems very familiar, a standard piece of American pageantry, like a second-rate USO show. The video immediately recalls Eric Garner, choked to death by a New York City police officer while gasping, “I can’t breathe.” It recalls Oscar Grant, shot in the back by transit police while laying face down in handcuffs. It reminds us of Rodney King, whose videotaped beating by the LAPD played incessantly on television, promising to finally prove what Black people had always known about the police.

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