Violence Against Protesters Isn’t Just Assault, It’s a Gross Violation of Human Rights.

Our voices and ability to speak out are being stolen from us.

A recent image from The NY Times

To protest is an essential right of the Constitution.

It is also part of a healthy democracy.

Citizens of any country should be allowed to take to the streets and voice their displeasure with any status quo or situation they might wish to speak out about. The point of protest is to bring issues out into the open which need to be spoken about and addressed. It’s a method of informing both government and citizens of other citizen's feelings on a particular cultural construct or issue at hand.

It’s also a way of allowing citizens their own place and voice within the world and with regard to the government. Good governments listen to the voices of their people. They hear what citizens are saying and consider it carefully. Thye do not consider themselves above everyone but, instead, as working with their people to make society great for everyone.

Freedom of speech, one of the amendments in the constitution, includes freedom to protest. To inflict violence on protesters, then, is a gross violation of the Constitution and freedom of speech.

A protest is (or should be) part of what keeps a government humble and aware of crucial social issues at hand. Ones to which they should be paying attention and addressing.

Thus, Trump telling Governors to “dominate” protestors is a fascist dictatorship. It is the opposite of democracy and is stomping out the constitutional rights of citizens. Fascism is a government that is led by a central dictator in complete power, who forcibly supposes opposition and criticism, who regiments all industry, and who emphasizes an aggressive nationalism and often, racism.

Then we have the police officers adding to the violence and constitutional rights violations with their behavior. Cop cars in Brooklyn mowed down crowds of protestors. The National Guard in Minneapolis shot paint canisters at residents standing on their own porches. A Pennsylvania officer was filmed kicking a teenager who was already sitting on the ground, her hands covering her face. An officer in Utah knocked over an elderly man walking with a cane. And across the country, officers shot journalists with rubber bullets (once on live TV), arrested reporters, and pepper-sprayed members of the press, even as they clearly identified themselves as working journalists.

Per The New York Times, videos showed police officers in recent nights using batons, tear gas, pepper spray and rubber bullets on protesters, bystanders and journalists, often without warning or seemingly unprovoked. The footage, which has been shared widely online, highlighted the very complaints about police behavior that have drawn protests in at least 75 cities across the United States.

People are flipping out (rightfully so) because of both racism and police brutality. And now police officers are responding to this anger with more unnecessary brutality.

Police officers are assaulting people for exercising their basic constitutional right: freedom of speech. The freedom to voice upset and displeasure with the way things are going. Police are harming people for voicing their upset, and are, in effect, trying to silence them. This will only serve at further enflaming distrust over law enforcement, which is already shaky at best.

All of this is a major violation of human rights, is senseless and unnecessary violence, and is only enflaming and adding to the problem of societal anger over a significant, age-old societal issue: racism.

America is angry. It has a right to be. It should be. I’m not sure why we weren’t storming the streets sooner.

Almost 40 million people are unemployed because of Coronavirus. Many of whom are now screwed financially, even destitute. According to The New Yorker, 40% of Americans do not have $400 in the bank for an emergency. They would have to rely on credit cards or family and friends. Yes, you read that right. Almost half of Americans. That single statistic right there is a symptom of a sickly imbalanced society. One in which people are not treated well, one which is precarious and insecure at best, and one in which poverty runs rampant and will only continue to rise.

People are dying, thousands every day, because our government refuses to float the funds for more medical equipment, more ventilators, for more widespread testing. And, that same government that is aiding in all of these deaths with their non-reactions doesn’t say a single word in acknowledgment, remembrance, or mourning for the thousands and thousands of people who have died (many of which, unnecessarily. As in, if we had more supplies and resources, or, if we understood social distancing and abided by it, none of this would need to have gotten to such an extreme degree).

Thousands and thousands more are soon going to find themselves homeless. Evictions are happening left and right, with people unable to pay their rents in having lost their jobs. Again, why? Italy froze mortgage and rent payments. So did Germany. As in, if you lost your job and cannot afford to pay, you will still have a home and need not worry about that. Thus, it doesn’t have to be this way in the U.S. So why is it?

What is happening in America that we’ve become such a cruel, heartless, barbaric society? One in which we leave our citizens out to dry? One where we leave most people to claw and worry through life, as opposed to feeling secure and able to lead a life of utmost flourishing.

And then, yet another black person, George Floyd, was killed by law enforcement. Amidst the Coronavirus pandemic, which has brought the depth of our country’s racism into the spotlight (with way more people of color dying and getting sick), people finally snapped. Racism in this country is a long abiding problem and a huge one. It results in a diminished quality of life for many of our fellow citizens. It’s no wonder so many are angered.

From An American Uprising by David Remnick (The New Yorker): Now we have a President who is happy to invoke a loaded, racist threat by tweeting, “When the looting starts, the shooting starts.” And, while the answer to every political question cannot be Donald Trump, the fact is that the country is led by a demagogue whose political impulses are autocratic, whose rhetoric is deliberately divisive.

No less infuriating is the fact that Trump, whose racist bona fides range from his 1989 campaign against the Central Park Five to his use of birtherism as a political launch pad, was elected by tens of millions of Americans who either endorsed his bigotry or were willing to tolerate it. That base of support has not contracted to any significant degree and persists still.

Trump’s defeat in November is hardly assured.

America is burning. It’s like an old building in which a demolition team has ignited a bomb, the structure now crumbling and roaring to the ground in pieces. And it’s a culmination of many of these issues, now coming to a head.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a Democratic member of Congress representing the Bronx and Queens, argued for a comprehensive view of the situation.

“If you’re calling for an end to the unrest, but not calling out police brutality, not calling for health care as a human right, not calling for an end to housing discrimination, all you’re asking for is the continuation of quiet oppression,” she said.

We live in a country where, as long as you have money, you might be ok. Keyword: might. Yet, most people do not have money, as we’ve seen in the statistics above. Since 2000, housing costs have doubled, while wages have remained largely stagnant. A significant number of Americans live check to check. The middle class is rapidly disappearing. It's, very shortly, going to be only the rich, and then everyone else.

And yet, even if you have money stockpiled away, all it takes is one freak accident. Maybe you need open-heart surgery, or you can into a bad car accident. Or, maybe no accident. Maybe one of your ailing parents needs medical care and you have to front the bill since retirement accounts in this country have been sapped. Maybe a fire happens in your house and most of your possessions burn, or, a tornado or flash flood comes tearing through (all of which are very possible with the intensifying of climate change). That money you had stockpiled and felt safe in having? Gone.

Because here in America, medical care will bankrupt you. Insurance companies offer pennies in terms of assistance with disasters or medical needs. We do not offer social safety nets in America to ensure the security, safe living, and to ensure stable lives for people. Instead, we offer little to none of that.

All of this results in most of the U.S. population leading lives peppered, or even saturated with anxiety, uncertainty, worry, and even disheartenment and depression.

To look around the United States today is enough to make prophets and angels weep,” James Baldwin wrote, in 1978, and the same could be said of our moment.

Iceland essentially eliminated the Coronavirus. New Zealand and Canada have handled it extraordinarily well too. Austria, Norway, Switzerland, Denmark, have all been named especially great places to live. With solid healthcare, low cost to even free education, a plethora of paid time off, and many social safety nets in place for the security and peace of mind of their citizens.

What is wrong with America that we cannot figure this out? I wonder, is it that we are just stupid or heartless? Neither one is flattering. Neither one helps to soften the blow that living here is likely to be an uphill and anxiety-laden battle for most.

This is why America is burning. This is why so many people are angry. Long-standing racism, to be sure, as well as the litany of illogical, unfair, and even harmful societal structures we’ve had in place for far too long. And, a leader (if he could ever be called such, which we couldn’t) who has only served at further inflaming and dividing this country.

“If a soul is left in the darkness, sins will be committed. The guilty one is not he who commits the sin, but he who causes the darkness. — Victor Hugo

Fervent writer. Ravenous reader. Impassioned with words. Relationship researcher. Social Scientist. Social Justice Advocate. Author. www.brookeenglish.com

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