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Tue Jan 24, 2023, 09:21 AM

The promise of the George Floyd uprisings and the persistence of police thuggery

The promise of the George Floyd uprisings and the persistence of police thuggery
"They're trying to George Floyd me," Keenan Anderson cried out as multiple Los Angeles police officers subdued him

Senior Writer

(Salon) The summer of protests in response to the video-recorded police murder of George Floyd in 2020 was one of the largest and most diverse in American history. It is estimated that between 15 and 26 million people took to the streets in America and participated in other protest activities and organizing to show their outrage and disapproval at the police murder of Floyd and the cultural problems of police brutality and anti-Black bias and white supremacy more broadly.

The protests took place in the midst of resurgent white supremacy, white rage, and the Trump regime's war on democracy. These protests also embodied radical possibilities for reforming America's police, the carceral society, and the larger culture of cruelty. In a 2020 essay that appeared in Jacobin, political scientist Douglas McAdam, who is one of the world's leading experts on social movements, described the moment:

Put together, we appear to be experiencing a social change tipping point that is as rare as it is potentially consequential. However, notwithstanding all the energy and momentum generated by the protests, and what appears to be a related drop in Donald Trump's poll numbers, his reelection in November remains a real threat, all the more so since the pandemic threatens the high-voter turnout that Democrats rely on, as well as enabling the kind of voter suppression that the Republicans favor.

The best we can hope for is to do everything we can to maintain the momentum, energy, and inclusive, pragmatic, and nonviolent character of the current protests. Our goal should be twofold: to capitalize on the possibilities for change inherent in this moment, and to begin to pivot toward forms of electoral mobilization crucial to success in the fall. The survival of American democracy will likely depend on how successfully we attend to this agenda.

While it is certain that the summer was a highly influential and formative moment for the political identities of an entire generation of young people and others, unfortunately, the lasting movement necessary to create that better and more just America has not yet developed.

At the Brookings Institute, senior fellow Dana Fisher offers this insight:

The question that remains is how to translate such a diverse and prolonged mass mobilization into social change. Unfortunately, the effects of the protests in summer 2020 have been relatively disappointing so far, yielding mostly what Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor calls "the low-hanging fruit of symbolic transformation." Systemic racism is one of a range of progressive priorities that have highlighted the vast distance that must be traveled between protest and legislation or other forms of policymaking. Once the masses are mobilized to participate in sustained activism, there is still much to learn about how to channel outrage in the streets into enduring social and political change. There is no question, however, that the opportunities are substantially increased when protests are large, persistent, and include crowds that are diverse enough to be representative of the general American public.


Public opinion polls, meanwhile, continue to show consistent divides across lines of race where white Americans especially Republicans are much more likely to believe that police abuse of the public is not a significant problem than are Black Americans and Democrats. As a 2021 essay at the Morning Consult highlights, polling information shows that "as Democrats and Black Americans increasingly cast police violence as a grave issue, the declining threat perception among the broader population is fueled by shifting views among white Republicans: 41 percent view police violence as a serious problem, down 18 points since 2016, while the share of white Democrats who said the same has increased slightly over that time frame to 88 percent. As a whole, Democrats and Black people are twice as likely as Republicans to see police violence as a serious problem, and the share of GOP adults who describe racial discrimination against Black people as "one of the biggest problems facing America today" has fallen 10 points from last summer." ...........(more)


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