International Policy Digest

U.S. News /16 Jun 2020
06.16.20

Is Everyone Equal Under the Law?

The civil rights movement was a social justice movement during the 1950s and 1960s for African Americans to gain equal rights under the law. It led to the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 which barred discrimination and segregation in education, jobs, housing, and public facilities. However, that didn’t mean that discrimination would stop, and everyone would be considered equals. 56 years later and African Americans are increasingly facing the same racism as though it was the 1950s.

Trayvon Martin, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and Tamir Rice are just a sample of people who were found on the wrong side of the justice system. Trayvon Martin was 17-years-old when he was shot and killed by George Zimmerman because he looked “suspicious.” Zimmerman was charged with murder but was later acquitted. Tamir Rice was 12-years-old when he was shot and killed by Timothy Loehmann, a 26-year-old police officer, after a 911 call was made that “a male was pointing a pistol” at people. The supposed “pistol” turned out to be a toy gun and Loehmann never faced charges. Breonna Taylor was shot and killed in her bed by Louisville police officers who believed that Jamarcus Glover was keeping drugs in her home. The police entered without any warning and didn’t identify themselves and no drugs were found on the premises. Ahmaud Arbery was unarmed when he was shot while jogging after being chased by two white men in their pickup truck. Gregory and Travis McMichael, the shooters, were recently charged with aggravated assault and felony murder, more than two months after the murder. The victims all have 1 thing in common, the color of their skin. Their names and faces must be remembered. This is a recurring pattern that should have ended years ago. Now is the time for a change!

Americans are fed up with systematic racial profiling, especially by law enforcement officers. Every day African Americans have to face discrimination in all aspects of their lives, simply because of their darker complexion. How are they supposed to trust the police? The same officers who have murdered hundreds of African Americans simply because they look “suspicious.” How many of those officers are punished? How many more families are going to mourn the loss of their young children? This country was built on equality and freedom, however, almost 250 years later those same values are only given to certain members of society.

On May 25th, around 8 pm, an employee from Cup Foods convenience store called the police to report that a customer had attempted to use a counterfeit $20 bill to buy cigarettes. Police officers Derek Chauvin, Thomas Lane, J.A. Keung, and Tou Thao arrived at the scene where they stated that George Floyd had “physically resisted” arrest. However, in a video released of the arrest, it is shown that George Floyd was not “yelling or acting aggressively.” Floyd was pinned to the ground by Chauvin and repeatedly said “I can’t breathe,” as Chauvin put his knee into Floyd’s neck. Chauvin continued for 8 minutes and 46 seconds until after Floyd lost consciousness. The other officers stood there and did nothing, they were silent. It’s atrocious to know that members of the law enforcement are willing to stand by and let such murderous acts occur.

(American Jewish Historical Society)

The man could not breathe, and nobody cared. His death should never have happened. It was unnecessary to keep him to the ground for 8 minutes and 46 seconds, what was the point of that? If a white man instead of Floyd had walked into that same convenience store and used a counterfeit $20, he likely would have gotten a warning. Chauvin has since been arrested and charged with second-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. Keung, Lane, and Thao have all been charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder and manslaughter. How can we know that this situation won’t happen again?

Since Floyd’s killing there has been an upheaval of protests against police brutality across the U.S. and parts of the world. In Minneapolis, there have been, “gunshots heard and fires engulfing businesses in parts of the city.” Some suggest that the violent protests should have stopped by now. However, African Americans have been silenced for many years now and they have a point to make. Now is not the time for them to be silenced, it’s time for them to be heard, they have earned that right. During the peaceful protests, the police have been utilizing tear gas on the protestors. Recently, a group of congressional lawmakers have proposed legislation to ban police officers from using tear gas on civilians. It’s quite shocking to see my own government use a weapon against its own people. The U.S. government is supposedly built on unity, however, that’s impossible when it’s using weapons on peaceful civilians. In the 1960s there were protests to push for equality for African Americans which led to new legislation, which is happening once again.

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi spoke out saying: “We saw it on TV- him being murdered on TV…And it wasn’t self-defense…an execution.” Pelosi sees the injustice occurring in America and knows that it must end. President Trump had a phone call with Floyd’s family, however, Floyd’s brother Philonese Floyd said “…he didn’t give me the opportunity to even speak…he just kept, like, pushing me off.” It doesn’t seem that Trump cares at all about the loss of the Floyd family and is instead focusing on bringing the National Guard to stop protests. Why is it that the National Guard is being called in to stop these protesters who are fighting for justice, but not for anti-lockdown protesters in North Carolina carrying guns? He isn’t thinking about the future of African Americans or about ways to stop another murder from occurring.

Travis Washington, a graduate student, is attempting to push for new legislation. The “Hands Up Act” would make it illegal for police officers to shoot any suspect if the person is found without a weapon. Any officers who shoots someone unarmed would serve a mandatory 15-year sentence, according to the act.

This act needs to be passed, to not only protect African Americans but everyone. Mistakes happen, which is understandable, but it’s not okay for a child to be murdered and for their killer to walk free. This country needs to rebuild trust in law enforcement. An essential step in that process is creating such laws, to ensure that everyone is getting the justice that they deserve. We need to come together and make drastic changes to save our country.

A daunting issue is the fact that police officers with multiple complaints are not being disciplined. If there is no punishment, they will likely do it again. It’s human nature. Officer Chauvin had 18 filed complaints against him with Internal Affairs and only 2 were “closed with discipline.” What sort of discipline is that, if there are 16 other complaints that were never closed? Officer Thao had 6 complaints filed against him and 5 of them had closed “without discipline.” The law enforcement system needs to be fixed and all complaints need to be thoroughly investigated. There should be a cap on the number of complaints an officer can get before any serious action is to be taken, such as suspension or demotion. Another thing, settlements do not serve justice. In no world is getting $6 million the equivalent to your child’s murderer facing no charges. That’s not justice.

Why is it that everyone gets punished except for police officers? The United States needs to stop giving power to those who oppress others.