Just after the world was forcefully locked down at the outset of the COVID-19 outbreak in 2020, people in nations around the globe were struck with yet another extremely horrifying news event to consider. As individuals, families, and groups of people sat trapped in their homes, already shocked to take in the sudden international spread of the formerly unknown coronavirus, televisions and screens everywhere showed the shocking and brutal murder of a 46-year-old black man named George Floyd by police officers in the United States.
The footage was available to put on the news because it had been videoed as it occurred: and so, the world watched as a white police officer held his knee to Floyd’s neck in Minneapolis as the latter gasped, struggled, and repeatedly said ‘I can’t breathe.’
The killing of George Floyd by police sparked outrage and protests worldwide and shined a light on police brutality in the United States. This is not a modern phenomenon: the history of the police in America is littered with cases of abuse, violence and brutality which underwrite the tragic events that led to the death of a human man May of 2020.
Histories of Violence
George Floyd may have been the murder that drove the United States to its breaking point, but there are examples throughout the nation’s history that its law enforcement has not always been there to protect and serve its people, but rather execute violence and brutality on a population whenever possible.
In fact, in 2017 the Smithsonian magazine covered a brief history of police brutality which started with the evolution of policing as an organized institution in the 1830s and 1840s: according to the research, the police were originally targeting European immigrations and African-Americans who they believed to be out of control for violence.
Accountability and Retribution
According to another source, 7,666 individuals were killed by police between 2013 and 2019 in the United States. In 1991, the unbelievably violent murder of Rodney King by multiple police officers – King was a taxi driver who had stopped resisting arrest who was hit more than 50 times with multiple police batons – sparked the spart of the LA Riots which lasted years and caused untold damage to the city and beyond.
Riots are one way in which populations have reacted to police brutality in the states, but others have sought legal retribution. There are even specialist police brutality lawyers who take on cases, and have organizes mass suits against police departments and states in order to address some of the horrors of modern police violence against populations.
The issue of police brutality has always been deeply interwoven to the issue of civil rights and racism in America. Amid calls to abolish the police, Trump’s supporters emerged as a force in support of law enforcement, which demonstrated just how bifurcated the nation is. Is it any wonder that police brutality has never been systematically addressed in a country which cannot even reckon with its own racial past?