When the ex-Minneapolis PD officer, Derek Chauvin, put his knee on George Floyd’s neck, he couldn’t have known that it would be a defining moment in American history. Who, at the time, would have thought that so many people would rise up to demand justice for Floyd, when so many other Black Americans had been murdered in cold blood by US police officers for no other reason than the colour of their skin?
I’ve been trying to follow the story as closely as possible, and it gets more shocking by the headline.
- The owners of the shop that called the police over Floyd using a counterfeit $20 note admitted that they didn’t think Floyd was aware it was fake in the first place. They tried to get the police to calm down as they started manhandling Floyd, but were pushed away. Now they have vowed never to call the police on anyone unless the perpetrator is using violence.
- Chauvin himself had 18 previous complaints against him, while one of those who stood by and watched had six.
- It took the police ages to arrest Chauvin even though the video clearly showed him using excessive force. He was only charged with third-degree murder at first – though yesterday it was announced that it would be changed to second-degree murder.
- The American President, instead of trying to calm the situation, told governors to use force. Peaceful protestors were teargassed just so Donald Trump could make his way to an Episcopal Church building to stage a photo shoot outside it while holding the Bible.
There is no doubt that there are those who loot and riot for the sake of it, but not to understand how the above led some protestors to become aggressive after so many years of Black people being treated as second-class citizens is part of the reason why this rebellion happened in the first place.
Looking back at history, violence and looting were never the first step, but they did become part of the game plan of many revolutions: the American Revolution began with the Boston Tea Party, which saw many destroy a shipment of tea on which the owners weren’t going to pay taxes. The suffragettes famously planted a bomb inside St Paul’s Cathedral to get the UK government to give women the vote. In Malta, during the Sette Giugno Riots, the homes of the Francia and Cassar Torreggiani families were looted.
All these situations had many more factors that led to them happening, but one thing they have in common is that those in authority didn’t listen to the plight of the people for way too long.
The rebellions, in other words, were not the problem in themselves; they were, in people’s minds, part of the solution to the other and more pertinent problems, like people ignoring peaceful protests, and order being kept at the expense of justice.
And that is happening here in Malta, too.
- When, last year, we protested the disgusting revelations that were coming out in the Daphne Caruana Galizia assassination case – you know, how people at the top of the political food chain were being implicated by the middle-man of a successful assassination plot of a journalist, under oath, and no action was being taken – people worried about business rather than justice.
- When Miriam Pace was buried under the rubble of her own home, which came tumbling down due to the greed that has engulfed this island, people called for justice for a week or two and then they continued about their daily lives as if nothing had happened.
- When Repubblika dared ask whether the Maltese status quo had indeed been complicit in the Easter Massacre, people told them to shut up and not to rock the boat.
My point is not to glorify looting or violence. There is nothing okay about someone’s shop or car or home being looted or burnt to the ground. The problem here is that people, particularly those in power, rarely listen.
Peaceful protest may be allowed, but there is no point to it if things don’t change. As a post making the rounds on Facebook rightfully stated: They [the status quo in America] would rather watch the country burn than arrest three of their own. They have since arrested and arraigned Chauvin, but it came too late and the charge, until yesterday, was way too lenient.
That post could also be used for Malta, too, where the disgraced ex-prime minister could have saved everyone time by firing Konrad Mizzi and Keith Schembri and then resigning, but he didn’t. And, scarily, here in Malta just like in America, the majority of people applauded the fact that order was being kept, yet weren’t fazed that justice wasn’t being served.
But until everyone is treated equally and feels safe, then there will always be those that will risk everything to see change. The only way to fully avoid that is by always ensuring that justice is served and is seen to be served, fairly and equally to all, no matter what position they hold.