Photo by Auntie Guillen

photographs by  @johnnymeant

UNDERSTANDING THE PROTESTS

IN OUR CITY

by Nico Hough

 

June.04.2020

Why are there curfews and closures?


Curfews are now in effect in many cities, including Miami, to stop citizens from demonstrating.
 

There are currently as many armed National Guard members deployed in American cities as there are troops in Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan. Since demonstrations began nationwide, at least 6 protestors have been killed by police. Thousands more have been arrested. Violation of curfew could result in arrest by the police. On June 1st, Attorney General Barr ordered federal Federal Bureau of Prisons to dispatch riot police in Miami to stop the demonstrations. This exaggerated response is a show of force. From a bunker below 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, the President encouraged more police, military, and citizen violence against protestors. 

What is violence?

We must beware the language we use. When the police kill an unarmed man, the phrase used by those in power is "officer related shooting." When a community has exhausted peaceful solutions and vandalizes a store or damages tax-payer funded police equipment, they call it "violence." Violence is an act of force against another living thing with intention to harm or kill. You can be destructive, but never violent, towards inanimate private property.

 

There are other kinds of violence-- economic, emotional, and psychological-- that are consequences of racially unjust police and state policy. This violence goes unmentioned, while acts of vandalism are called "violence."

This is a tool to shift blame from those perpetrating true injustice in our communities to those reacting against it. This language game becomes most obvious when the state and media talk about communities of color.

Why were there protests this week in Miami?

Protests began last week in Minnesota, sparked by the police killing George Floyd, a 46 year-old unarmed black man. Protests against this injustice and the system that allows it happened in over 140 American cities, including Miami and Coral Gables. 

What happened to George Floyd?

George Floyd, a father of a 6 year old girl, was arrested for trying to use a forged 20 dollar bill to buy groceries. George Floyd's killer, a white police officer named Devin Chauvin, suffocated him by kneeling on his neck for over 8 minutes.  Three other officers watched without helping Mr. Floyd. Video emerged of the killing, and initial police filings bore no resemblance to what actually happened. The officer was not charged. The following night, police tear-gassed a peaceful assembly in Mr. Floyd's memory, leading to unrest. The continued demonstrations led to officer Chauvin being charged with third degree, and finally second degree, murder and manslaughter. The other three officers were fired and are finally facing charges after days of inaction. This would not have been achieved without protests.

This killing is no isolated incident. Between 2013 and 2019, police killed 7,666 Americans. The dead are disproportionately black. Of the officers involved in these killings, roughly 1% faced consequences. Many of the protestors were naming other victims of police brutality as well as Mr. Floyd's, including Breonna Taylor, a 26 year-old black woman killed in her own home. Ms. Taylor, an emergency medical technician, was sleeping in her bed when Louisville police on a no-knock warrant entered the wrong apartment and opened fire.

 

Photo by Jonathan Cox

Photo by Jonathan Cox

Photo by Jonathan Cox

photograph by  @johnnymeant

photograph by  @meghansauder

Why was there looting?

On Saturday, there was looting in downtown Miami's Bayside Marketplace. It was, without question, unfortunate.
It is also not the main concern.

Centering the conversation around looting and vandalism is a distraction. By not differentiating between peaceful protestors, looters, and vandals, people attempt to de-legitimize these demonstrations. The majority of the demonstrators were there peacefully and remained so, even after being gassed and shot with rubber bullets. Those people were there to demand justice for George Floyd and thousands of other people, mostly black, killed by the police. Attempts to make the conversation about the destruction of a store instead of these extrajudicial killings are mostly being argued in bad faith.

To understand the looting, we must look at the role private property plays in a city like Miami. This city, like so many others, operates in service to developers and the owner class. We do not have any robust public healthcare for the poor because the wealthy can afford private healthcare. We do not have well-funded public schools for the poor because the wealthy can afford private education. For the time being, we do not have a city-wide private police force for the wealthy, so the public police department is well-funded. One of their main tasks is to protect private property and keep real estate value intact. The concern over looting is directly related to this.

Compare the government's response to the loss of an insured Auto Zone to the loss of a human life for a clearer idea of what the problem is.

Why wasn't there state violence at the Re-open America protests?

Those protests, including armed demonstrators carrying automatic weapons swarming the Michigan capital building, were overwhelmingly white and pro-business.

Were there outside agitators?

Maybe. It doesn't matter. The narrative that these protests were created by "outside agitators" is meant to weaken the legitimate grief and outrage of protestors and shift the conversation away from their demands.

Photograph by @devknight__

What won't the state do?

It won't protect you from a pandemic.

 

The United States has had the worst COVID-19 response in the world. Florida remains in the top ten most effected states, with over 61,000 positive cases. All across the country, people of color have been disproportionately among the sick and dead.

It won't save you from economic disaster.

 

In the last three months, this country has seen depression-levels of unemployment. In Florida, the state with the second highest income inequality in the country, the rate of unemployment tripled. Only 4% of the 1.5 million who filed since March have received benefits. South Florida is set to be more effected by economic depression than most parts of the country, with tourism grinding to a halt. All across the country, people of color have been disproportionately effected.

We have read the news. Budget cuts. Underfunded hospitals. Nurses using trash bags as protective gear. School lunch programs canceled. Arts funding slashed. The list goes on.

What will the state do?

It will equip troopers with riot gear and face shields. It will splurge on helicopters and tanks. It will blast crowds with tear gas and rubber bullets. It will respond to protests against police violence with more police violence. It will impose curfews. It will activate the national guard because people looted a Foot Locker.

Photo by @devknight__

Photo by @devknight__

What can we do?

 

Our foremost responsibility is to help our community.

 

The movement to de-fund the police is gaining unprecedented support. We can make police de-funding a priority for any local politician. About a third of Miami's budget goes to police and prisons. We can ask our local officials to de-fund the MPD and redirect that money. Instead of criminalizing homelessness, we can invest in housing. Instead of police in our schools, we can have better funded programs and more counselors. Instead of purchasing more helicopters for the force while nurses are forced to wear trash bags for protection, we can have well-funded health services. We can fund alternative solutions to keeping the peace and responding to nonviolent situations, such as more social workers.
 

We can call for an end to broken windows policing, limit use of force, de-militarize, and demand community oversight. You can read more about this at campaign zero.  (It is important to note that up until now, these reforms have not worked.)

We can vote in local elections, including the upcoming state attorney election in August.

We can take the time to understand the nature of systemic racism and the role it plays in our daily lives. This is especially important for white people in our community. Here is a useful toolkit to begin that conversation.

The able-bodied can show up to demonstrations in solidarity. We can also deliver masks, water, hand sanitizers, and other supplies to protestors to keep them safe and cared for.

We can donate to bail funds, nationally and locally, as well as activist groups doing important work, such as Dream Defenders.

What can't we do?

We can not ignore the very real pain, violence, and destruction that has ravaged ours and other communities across the country for its entire history. We can not be indifferent, or side against our own neighbors, friends, and colleagues.

 

We can do very much, but we can not do nothing.

Say his name! George Floyd!

Photo by Jonathan Cox

Photo by @devknight__

Miami On Sight is a fiscally sponsored project of the Center for Social Change, a 501c3 non-profit organization.

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