Patrol vehicles ramming protesters, tackling from behind, using pepper spray, or shooting rubber bullets in the face. With these dubious practices, police departments in many cities in the United States have done little to prevent citizen protests against racism from turning violent in recent days.
Last night, the Mayor of New York, Bill de Blasio, called an emergency press conference, under the incessant sound of helicopters and police sirens, to justify a picture of Saturday’s protests that went viral on social media.
Two New York police vans surrounded by a crowd of protesters in Brooklyn sped up and swept away dozens of people, who fortunately collapsed onto the asphalt without being rolled under the vehicles.
This tactic, along with others such as throwing pepper spray on protesters with their hands up, have raised criticism against the alleged main objective of police action: de-escalation.
“It is not true that we are not helping to de-escalate the situation,” New York Police Commissioner Dermot Shea said today, assuring that he will not consent to the lives of his agents being endangered.
De Blasio lowered his tone last night when assuring: “I do not like the video (of the vans), it is going to be investigated”, and then clarify: “Those protesters were not peaceful, they were throwing things at the vehicles. You have to put yourself in the shoes of those policemen. ”
Last night there were 350 people detained in New York, where the level of violence and looting that cities like Detroit, Chicago, Dallas or Albany did not experience, where fires and chaos were the keynote as of 10 pm local time .
“This is not the same police as six years ago, we are reforming it,” said de Blasio today, who says that the police are increasingly integrating better with the communities they patrol.
The New York police budget has increased by about 30% in the past six years, despite the fact that crimes have been steadily decreasing and are near record lows.
Cities like Chicago, Houston, Detroit or Oakland allocate more than a third of their budget to their police departments, according to data from the Center for Popular Democracy. In all of them, the protests have led to riots, looting and chaos.
In six years since the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, which also sparked riots and protests across the country, little seems to have changed in the way the police address racial and economic inequality in the United States, despite budgets. generous and reform plans.
Added to this is a post-pandemic scenario with public administration budgets in free fall and unemployment at its highest since the Great Depression, which mainly affects young people and African-Americans.
With US President Donald Trump doing little to seek de-escalation in protests against police brutality and racism, the police and mayors are trying to avoid further chaos, in some cases declaring curfews, which have led to in mass arrests.
Michigan last night offered a stark contrast to how to deal with the crisis. In Detroit with the arrival of night, tear gas launches, races, police helicopters, and violent protesters began that sheltered from the crowd and chaos began looting stores.
By contrast, in Flint, also in Michigan and one of the cities hardest hit by the deindustrialization of the Midwest, officers from the sheriff’s office joined the protests by shouting “Black Lives Matter.”
That police solidarity with a cry that has been heard throughout the country for years has been repeated in Camdem (New Jersey) or Santa Cruz (California). In none of these places were riots reported.