Donald Trump stood outside a church building in Washington DC holding a Bible in his hand. That was the message. A crowd of peaceful protestors had been tear-gassed aside to make way for President Trump to go to the chapel building opposite the White House.
As a Christian campaigning for Conservative principles and values in politics I found the President’s “photo opportunity” offensive and disturbing.
The English legal/constitutional tradition has influenced American law. In that English tradition, everyone has a right to petition the executive for redress of grievance. And the executive has a responsibility to respond to their grievance appropriately. Authority is necessarily founded on Might – this President Trump evidently understands. But for Might to retain its Right, it has a moral responsibility to uphold Justice.
George Floyd’s arrest was broadcast around the world. I have not seen footage of the entire incident; I saw the images of a police officer with his knee in the neck of George Floyd who was complaining that he could not breathe. Passers-by attempted to remonstrate with police but were rebuffed. I saw the limp, unconscious body of Mr Floyd being moved on to an ambulance stretcher.
I subsequently learned that Mr Floyd’s alleged transgression was not robbery or murder, but attempting to pass a false $20 dollar bank note. We do not know whether Mr Floyd himself knew that the bank note was counterfeit. Why ? Because the arresting officer failed to ensure that Mr Floyd would be attending court for a hearing of the evidence. Even though there were 4 officers present with Floyd’s hands already handcuffed behind his back, the arresting officer saw fit to have the suspect on the tarmac with a knee in his neck.
Both the technique and the mentality of the officer pose critical questions. What sort of training do American police officers receive and what sort of culture prevails among them ?
Because this is by no means the first time an unarmed and innocent [until proven guilty] black man has been killed by white police officers in the United States. Far from it. It was happening when Obama was President. And it has continued with disturbing regularity since. It is invariably followed by riots and looting, with armed officers on the streets night after night. The forces of law and order struggle to keep control without shooting anybody. That would inflame an already dire and dangerous situation.
That’s the point. Police are there to maintain law and order.
The problem with the American police is that they harbour criminally minded men in uniform. Derek Chauvin, the arresting officer with his knee in Floyd’s neck, has many complaints recorded against him, and at least one witness alleges that Chauvin has a reputation for heavy handedness and unease around black people.
What sort of management control and personnel development exists in American police authorities ? What sort of culture allows a man with Chauvin’s mentality to put on a uniform and represent the laws and principles of a free democratic society ?
An official enquiry with teeth should have been set up to answer such questions long ago. I call the failure to grasp this issue criminal negligence on the part of the authorities.
But it is typical of democratic governments. They avoid giving adequate and informed consideration of serious issues in accordance with underlying principles and traditions of liberty. They are far too concerned with image and sound bites. Like Mr Trump, standing outside a church with a Bible in his hand, making an appeal to the law and order instincts of the religious Right in America.
No right minded person approves of rioting and looting. Mr Floyd’s own family have pointed out this will not right the wrong. They have appealed for calm and for the institutional processes to operate. However, the persistent failure of US authorities concerning white police and black victims leaves people justly outraged but with no formal redress. And where no redress exists, people will express their frustration somehow. People are justly outraged. That gives the extremists like Antifa and Anarchist groups the opportunity to exploit the situation.
Certainly the President must have regard to law and order. Without it there is chaos and loss of liberty. But law and order must start in the mind of police officers themselves. And law and order is for everyone, equally.
American lawyers justly revere Magna Carta: to no-one will we sell, to no-one will we deny or delay right or justice.
When will this apply to black Americans ? Ray Catlin