US riots against human rights violations question its global role
New York, May 31, 2020
The sorrow and anger behind the riots against human rights violations, setting the US afire coast-to-coast, has raised questions about the role of the country -- in particular its liberals -- as the global civil liberties police.
The contradiction is stark in Minnesota, where the current spate of protests started and which is a bastion of liberalism.
Last week the city council of St Paul, the state's capital, passed a resolution condemning India for what it said were its mistreatment of minorities.
Exactly five days later, a policeman choked an African-American man George Floyd to death by kneeling on his neck in Minneapolis, the state's largest city with which St Paul is twinned.
Democratic Representative Ilhan Omar, a vicious critic of India, has condemned India's restrictions in Kashmir.
But her constituency in Minneapolis came under curfew on Saturday night following violent attacks on police in which a police station was burnt down by demonstrators and systematic looting of shops.
Omar has not defied the curfew.
Floyd was killed in her constituency outside a store run by Palestinian immigrants, who had called police claiming he had given them a counterfeit note.
While condemnations fly from the US about attacks on the press elsewhere, an African-American journalist from CNN was arrested in Minneapolis by police on Friday while covering the protests.
On Saturday, a cameraman with the local CBS station there was shot by police with a rubber bullet and then arrested.
Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey who controls the police is a Democrat, as are the state governor and the two Senators from the state.
The riots stretching from New York on the east coast to Los Angeles on the west rocked the nation that was just beginning to relax the COVID-19 restrictions threatening to spread the disease.
The force of the protests that have turned violent comes from the ongoing brutality against minorities by police with two other recent cases adding to the fury behind the killing of Floyd.
A woman emergency medical technician was killed in police action in March in Louisville, Kentucky. The police had barged into her home on a narcotics investigation but found no drugs.
The mayor of Louisville, who controls the police, is also Democrat.
A man who was out jogging in Georgia state was killed by two civilians in February and the video of the killing emerged this month. Only then were the assailants, a father and son, who claimed they thought he was a burglar, arrested.
While many cases of encounter deaths of unarmed people take place in the US, the videos established the police action in the killings irrefutably.
The policeman who killed Floyd in Minneapolis has been charged with murder and all the four police personnel involved in the incident have been fired.
Protesters targeted police in their violent protests setting police vehicles on fire in New York, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Los Angeles and Los Angeles among other places.
As it often happens with political protests that turns into riots in the US, businesses are attacked, their merchandise looted and set on fire.
Police and National Guard troops have been called out and responded with flash grenades and rubber bullets, besides teargas and pepper spray.
In addition to the human rights actions by the State Department and Congress, US city and municipal councils have a tradition of pushing themselves into international affairs, even when it is not their remit.
Seattle City Council enacted an anti-India resolution sponsored by Council Member Kshama Sawant condemning the "far right" government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
The city was put under curfew on Saturday and the National Guard was called out after protesters clashed with police, throwing fireworks at them and police retaliating with flash grenades.
In St. Paul, Council Member Jane Prince, who is main sponsor of the resolution, said she worked on it with the Minnesota chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations and had been moved by President Donald Trump's India visit to propose the measure, she told the Sahan Journal.
The last time there were riots and major nationwide protests was when Barack Obama was President in 2014 after an African-American teenager was shot and killed by police in Ferguson, Missouri.
That gave an impetus to the Black Lives Matter movement, an ongoing struggle to protect African-Americans from police encounter deaths.
New York's Democratic Mayor Bill de Blasio blamed Trump for creating an atmosphere for the attacks on minorities.
But an incident very similar to the one in Minneapolis took place in New York under his watch in 2014.
An African-American man was choked to death by police while he was saying, "I can't breathe", while the killing was recorded on video by a bystander.
That became the rallying cry against police atrocities against minorities.
Those were also among Floyd's last words.