George Floyd One Year On: What Is to Be Done? – Labour Article
It’s been one year since the nine and a half minutes that changed the world. A year on from 25 May 2020 where we saw an incredible show of solidarity all in support of justice for George Floyd. A movement gathered of ordinary people united in strength to seek change. Looking back we must now ask ourselves “what have we changed?”
I am a firm believer that movements like this must be given much more time to bring around substantial progress. So when asking “what has been done?”, it’s appropriate to also ask “what is still to be done?”
An undeniably huge moment was the trial and verdict of Derek Chauvin who was found guilty on all accounts. He now rightly faces up to life in prison for the murder of George Floyd. It is worth remembering how unlikely it was for Chauvin to get a trial at all; this conviction was the first time in Minnesota’s state history that a white police officer was convicted of murdering a black person.
On federal level, members of the Congressional Black Caucus have introduced the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act; seeking to end chokeholds, no knock warrants, legal immunity from police and militarisation of police departments. The bill would undoubtedly be a massive legislative win. But after narrowly passing Congress – with zero support from republicans – the bill remains in gridlock and has yet to reach the Senate.
On statewide levels, Colorado, New Mexico, Connecticut and Massachusetts have all brought in legislation to make it easier to challenge police officers in court – weakening the qualified immunity police have for protection.
In Minnesota, an ambitious bill was introduced that would allocate an extra $2.7 billion to aid with public safety and increase police accountability. However, this has a slim chance of passing in the Republican controlled state senate.
These are meaningful steps and will do good to help people. So what else is to be done?
On a federal level: ending the filibuster. This is the arbitrary rule that the senate has to pass bills with a two thirds majority. Removing it will do much to end legislative gridlock.
Furthermore, Biden’s $1.7 trillion infrastructure bill would be a massive boost to areas suffering generational poverty. The bill includes huge provisions for roads, housing, workforce development, schools and digital infrastructure.
Poverty is overwhelmingly a cause of crime and with black American’s suffering disproportionately from poverty, this bill will actually help reduce crime, not over-policing.
On city levels, schemes such as dissolving and rehiring the police force has helped deeply corrupt and violent forces such as in Camden, New Jersey where there has been reduced police complaints and increased transparency.
But as Dr Doris Carpenter of Camden says: “We need to present at the table – this is no longer a slave plantation”. People of the US need a greater say in how their cities are run beyond the limit of elected representatives. This is because, unfortunately, critical down the ballot elections for sheriffs, prosecutors and comptrollers often see low turn out or are rarely not contested. This in part can be due to a lack of information on how important these roles are, as well as restrictive measures to stop voting including voter ID laws or purged voter rolls.
In the US, electoralism seems like the only path to make reform possible – and that isn’t always a good thing. While change is methodical and planned in the real world, it is time that people do not have. At least 1,497 more people have died from police violence over the course of 2020 to 2021. If the people cannot get the meaningful change they need at the ballot box, we have to reason with the fact that the people will use extralegal means to get what they need. However uncomfortable it makes us, those who are far removed from the violence many activists have to live with, we have to discuss all options of reform.
For example, George Floyd Square in Minneapolis is currently in an ongoing occupation by protestors. They will not allow the square to be open until demands of $156 million investment into community services over the next 10 years and recalling Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman are met.
Occupied zones are incredible examples of community organisation; people have set up co-ops to distribute food and medical supplies as we saw with the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone and the occupation of Phillidelphia’s abandoned Hahneman Hospital. Additionally, the act of protest can bring international attention to a cause and the threat of community disruption can be a powerful bargaining tool to bring the powers that be to the negotiating table.
Overall, the verdict of progress made so far has not left me pessimistic. There is real change being proposed for the US and that is reason to be hopeful. Without the community action of protest, it is unlikely the movement would have garnered enough attention to push through all that has been done so far.
Crucially, we have not yet done enough. Another day passing is another chance that we will have another George Floyd, Brianna Taylor or Daunte White. Communities need to be vigilant and organised. We need more bright, young activists to step up and be the leaders to bring change from the bottom up. By any means necessary, the people must have their justice.
Written by Junior Labour Writer, Joseph Mclaughlin
Point of Information
Positive changes but a lot more still to be done – A Liberal Response
Joseph writes a compelling article that weighs up the changes set about by the President, Congress and Court and presents an optimistic outlook. In response it is important to discuss the changes in people’s education and outlook regarding race. As the discussion changes, policy will follow. Therefore, to secure long-term progression, a change in attitude is arguably more influential.
The first BLM protests took place in 2014. Following this, after years of stagnation, white racial attitudes began to shift, becoming increasingly liberalised. The George Floyd protests have undoubtedly accelerated this trend. Awareness for the cause has spread worldwide and this movement has encouraged many to educate themselves further. This education has seen millions join in both protests and the fight for an equal society.
However, for all the optimism there is a lot more to be done. You only have to listen to the disgraceful boos as sportsmen and women take the knee to realise this.
We cannot let up now that change has slowly begun. There may have been some changes, highlighted in the article, however, institutional racism remains. Far too many people remain racist and unaltered by the last year. Thus, campaigns must continue. Only once the attitudes of these citizens have changed can we consider the victory line in sight.
Written by Liberal Writer, Fletcher Kipps
We have certainly seen a lot of change in that year – A Conservative Response
Having a knee placed on the back of your neck to keep you immobile during an arrest is clearly wrong, and George Floyd’s death was unfortunate. Over that past year, we have all witnessed some change as it has reached all parts of the globe. The merits of these changes are still yet to be seen.
The death of George Floyd was promptly highjacked by many extremist groups. This led to severe civil unrest, rioting, vandalism, and many other heinous crimes in the US. Quite sadly, however, is that these often affected non-white, financially vulnerable populations and their communities.
ANTIFA has become a household name over the last year and I strongly suggest reading UNMASKED: Inside ANTIFA’s Radical Plan to Destroy Democracy by Andy Ngo to get an insight into the organisation. The author has been repeatedly attacked by the organisation, most recently in Portland.
Furthermore, the organisation Black Lives Matter (BLM) has recently come under much controversy with Patrisse Cullors (one of the organisation’s co-founders) purchasing four houses valuing just over $3 million in recent years. Cullors denies using money from donations given to the organisation. But since BLM does not release a full account of its spending it is hard to deny or confirm this.
Following the Sewell Report, it is clear race relations are not as conflicted as they are in the UK. Furthermore, as a country, little emphasis is placed on the ethnicity of our politicians with people prioritising their political record and professional experience over race. Thankfully, things are not the same as they are in America.
Overall, I am not sure that all the change that has come since George Floyd’s death has been positive. Race is certainly discussed much more in public discourse, proving to be both positive and negative.
Douglas Murry in his book The Madness of Crowds uses the analogy of St George in retirement; the dragon slayer spending the last of his days chasing dragons that are of no threat, trying to reclaim some of his former glory. The same seems to be true of many current activists.
I fundamentally believe that all people are equal. If you are a human being, you deserve the exact same opportunities as the next person; fighting for that goal is honourable. But it does not appear all the organisations that have come to the fore over the last year are aiming for this which is sad.
One thing is certain one year on from Floyd’s death: the world will not be as it was before his death. I think we can all at least hope this is for the better.
Written by Senior Conservative Writer, Peter Pearce
I am an incoming third year undergraduate currently studying Politics, Philosophy and Economics at the University of Exeter. I am socially liberal, fiscally conservative editor here at POI. I have been fascinated by politics for many years, from PMQs to late night election results all which has led to the desire to study this at university.
I am going into my second year at the University of Exeter studying a flexible combined honour in Geography and Politics. My interest in politics and geography stems from an interest in current events and the wider world, with geography being the study of all world processes.