The Pandora’s box of racial tension has now reopened, and there is blood on the streets. On Thursday, the Washington, D.C., police killed an 18-year-old African American, Deon Kay, while he was trying to escape arrest. According to police, the boy had a weapon. In just a few minutes, the 7th police precinct of the U.S. capital was surrounded by a protest rally, which took place without incident.
As if the news of the day were not enough, the examination of the footage from body cameras worn by policemen in past cases of people being killed in the streets revealed another terrible episode, which took place on March 23 in Rochester, New York. In the video, one can see Daniel Prude, a 41-year-old African American with serious psychiatric problems, as he died suffocated by a hood put on his head by the policemen who had arrested him and pinned him on the ground after he had been walking around half-naked and screaming.
According to police, the man—who had just been discharged from a hospital, despite the fact that he was displaying suicidal behavior—was smashing shop windows, spitting and screaming that he had COVID.
The case revealed that anti-spit hoods are apparently a customary practice during arrests, deemed more than legitimate in pandemic times. In a tragic irony, the police had been called by Prude’s own brother: “I placed a phone call for my brother to get help. Not for my brother to get lynched.”
Only on Thursday evening, after six months of claimed investigations, the mayor of Rochester finally suspended the seven police officers involved in the episode. Governor Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, also expressed his shock after watching the video and called for a speedy investigation.
In this climate that is getting more and more heated, Joe Biden landed on Thursday in Kenosha, Wisconsin, with intentions that were quite the opposite of those of Donald Trump two days before. While the president never misses an opportunity to ignite racial tensions, his challenger’s goal was “to bring Americans together to heal.”
Unlike the president, who only spoke with law enforcement representatives, Biden met with local citizens as well, and—privately and away from the spotlight, at Milwaukee airport—with the family of Jacob Blake (the African-American who is paralyzed after he was shot seven times in the back by a policeman, whom Trump didn’t even want to call, claiming that “they wanted to have lawyers involved”).
Obama’s former VP is the first Democratic candidate to visit the state since 2012, a sign that, after Clinton’s decisive defeat four years ago in this crucial state, nothing can be left to the mercy of events. Least of all when it comes to police violence and street protests that could end up hovering over the last weeks of the election campaign like a dark cloud.
Biden held fast to his centrist position: protesting is a sacred right and homicidal policemen should be put on trial, but “rioting is not protesting, Looting is not protesting. Setting fires is not protesting,” and those who commit such acts should be prosecuted.
This is a moderate position from which Trump has gotten very far indeed: in addition to his burst of capitalized tweets invoking “LAW AND ORDER,” the president went on Fox News and literally compared a police officer who kills a defenseless citizen to a tense golfer who “chokes” and “miss[es] a three-foot putt,” which warranted calling the latter a “choker.”
Trotting out the old cliché of the “few rotten apples,” the president, speaking at the White House, also speculated that Kyle Rittenhouse, the 17-year-old Trump supporter who shot and killed two protesters in Kenosha, might have acted in self-defense. He has steadfastly refused to extend such a generous benefit of the doubt to Black Lives Matter activists across the U.S., whom he compared to “domestic terrorists” in Kenosha.
When he was asked whether the U.S. has a systemic problem with racism, Trump answered with no hesitation whatsoever: “I don’t believe that.”
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