The protests that have been going on for six days in the United States after the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis are unprecedented in more ways than one. Beyond racism, protesters are now targeting US President Donald Trump.
The days pass but the anger remains strong. The protest movement that began in the United States after the death of a black American, George Floyd, when he was arrested on May 25 by white police in Minneapolis continues to gain momentum. The night of Sunday, May 31 to Monday, June 1, sparked new clashes between protesters and law enforcement in several cities across the country, including just steps from the White House in Washington.
National Guard soldiers have been deployed to 15 states while local authorities have imposed curfews in dozens of cities. Unheard of since the riots following the assassination of Martin Luther King in 1968.
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“There is something exceptional going on in the United States at the moment, we are dealing with a powder magazine that has exploded”, judge Romain Huret, historian from the United States and director of studies at the École des Hautes Etudes en social science (EHESS), contacted by France 24.
The origin of the movement and the movement itself are reminiscent of the riots following the 1992 acquittal of the police officers who beat Rodney King in Los Angeles or, more recently, the protests following the death of Michael Brown in 2014, in Ferguson. But because of “the speed of diffusion of the movement and its scale, with the combination of pacifist and violent demonstrations in as many cities and in such a strong way”, notes Romain Huret, the history that is currently being written in the United States is unpublished.
A particular context
“The United States has lived in an extreme climate of polarization since the election of Donald Trump, who has been playing with fire for three years using racist words, inciting hatred and disobedience part of the population “, underlines Romain Huret.
The violence in the images of the arrest, with a man on the ground asking to breathe and a police officer preventing him, shocked a large part of public opinion. Widely disseminated on social networks, these images served as a detonator.
“The death of George Floyd also comes at the height of the Covid-19 crisis, which highlighted the great inequalities existing in the United States. The epidemic has wreaked havoc within the African-American community, whether in terms of death or impact on the informal economy that allows a large part of this population to survive, “says the specialist from the United States.
A movement that goes beyond the racial question
“By his lack of reaction at first, then by his tweets which made the situation worse, Donald Trump symbolizes the absence of humanity. He showed that, for him, not all human lives are created equal”, analyzes Romain Huret.
The President called on Twitter to shoot protesters to restore order and urged local authorities to call on the National Guard, prompting the conviction of Barack Obama. It also further fueled the anger of an American left already dismayed by its handling of the crisis